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Can Your City’s Food Be Fully Locally-Sourced?

Is your diet local? If not, can it be? Researchers at the University of California, Merced asked these very questions and, overwhelmingly, the answers were yes. According to the research, most American cities’ food requirements can be supplied by farms and food producers within a fifty-mile radius of each city’s limits. The study projects that between 80% and 85% of the nation’s people could be fed by local farms if farming practices were changed to serve just local markets.

The researchers also found that a vegetarian-based diet is more efficient, as meat-heavy diets required three times as much land to feed the same number of people. The increase in land needed for the meat-heavy diet was attributed to the additional growing spaces for grains that act as feed for livestock.

Not every city is ready to adopt locally-grown products as their main avenue for food. New York, Miami, Las Vegas and San Diego recorded the lowest potential for sustainable, locally-grown food. However, when the radius is expanded to 100 miles, the potential increases. New York City, which could feed about 5% of its population within the 50 mile radius, could feed as much as 30% when the radius was increased.

However, certain areas of the country could be negatively impacted by a shift to local sourcing. The Modesto growing region in California has an enormous number of acres devoted to crops that will be exported, including walnuts and almonds, and the import business there would be hurt. The research was quick to point out, however, that these regions would still benefit from a partial shift to local food while retaining their export business.

Now, the real question: is any of this actually possible? In the short-term, probably not. But as the locally-sourced food movement continues to grow, a paradigm shift may not be so far off in the future.