District and citywide distributions of poverty and SNAP benefits. Gray colors indicate households
above the federal poverty line while red denotes those below. The percentage of households below the
poverty line that do not receive SNAP benefits are outlined in black.
Stanford’s Natural Capital Project to present a new report to the San Antonio city council on May 25 about ways to strategically and equitably scale-up urban agriculture.
What if you could grow fresh food where it is most needed, cost-effectively reduce heat-related deaths, and create green space for the local community? What if you could also reduce flooding and help mitigate climate change? These questions and more are at the heart of a report on the many possibilities of urban agriculture that the Stanford-based Natural Capital Project (NatCap) is presenting this week to a San Antonio City Council subcommittee.
The report considered two forms of urban agriculture: food forests and urban farms. Food forests are a system of perennial crops – primarily fruit and nuts – planted in layers to mimic a mature ecosystem with plants of differing heights. They are intended to provide food, shade, a haven for pollinators and other wildlife, and to capture water in the landscape. Urban farms typically grow and sell annual mixed vegetable crops, while food forests are primarily perennial orchard crops and tend to be open-access public spaces where people can pick food for free.
A collaboration between NatCap, the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, and three San Antonio city departments (Innovation, Metro Health, and Sustainability), the report estimates the amount of food that could be produced by urban farms and food forests, as well as some of their additional benefits: urban cooling, carbon storage, flood retention, and green space. Anne Guerry, chief strategy officer and lead scientist at NatCap, explained, “Using our model, we took all the publicly owned natural areas in San Antonio and reimagined them from vacant or underutilized lots to farms and food forests. Then, we calculated the benefits that would be provided.”
Specifically, the team found that if all underutilized, publicly owned land in San Antonio were converted to food forests – as an upper limit on what’s possible – they could provide 192+ million pounds of food a year, worth $995 million and enough to feed nearly 314,000 households for a year. Food forests would also provide $3.5 million in urban cooling services per year (potentially saving ~600 lives per year), reduce flooding, increase carbon sequestration, and significantly increase access to green space. If all underutilized publicly owned land in San Antonio were converted to urban farms, they could provide 926 million pounds of food worth $1.17 billion, enough to feed 1.27 million households. Without careful management, farms might increase nutrient pollution to neighboring areas from compost runoff – which has negative effects on water quality and aquatic life – and potentially reduce green space access, though less so than many alternative development scenarios like buildings or parking lots.
Using San Antonio as the pilot and with funding from NASA’s Environmental Equity and Justice program, NatCap is developing an online tool that will allow urban planners without technical expertise to use NatCap’s InVEST models to explore how different development scenarios change the distribution of nature’s benefits to different groups of people.
Improving equity by linking supply and demand for food
Residents of low-income neighborhoods in San Antonio face a wide range of issues, including a greater risk of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease stemming from a lack of access to healthy foods. These neighborhoods can also be up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding areas, and two of the local counties have the highest risk from flash flooding in the state of Texas. The city of San Antonio has recognized that urban agriculture can offer some relief from all of these challenges and aims to expand it, including through this report’s findings.
In a lot of places in America, urban and rural, people have to travel a long distance to reach supermarkets, to be able to access both food in general and also healthy food,” said Jess Silver, ecosystem services analyst with NatCap. “Part of the goal of this analysis was to really try and understand some of those food-related inequities across the city … to think about the potential production of urban agriculture and also the needs of the communities located around urban farms or urban food forests.”
Thus, the report focuses on urban agriculture in locations where fresh food is less accessible. Using information from the U.S. Census on use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, the models identified several districts where the demand for local food production is highest – and thus may be good places to target investments in urban agriculture for the greatest impact. These districts also suffer disproportionately from heat, so food forests can offer significant cooling benefits as well.
Expanding on local successes
Mitch Hagney, who runs his own local produce business in San Antonio and is on the board of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, has played a pivotal role in establishing the first food forests in the city, the Tam?x Tal?m Community Food Forest (a partnership between the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, the city’s Office of Innovation, and Bexar County’s Parks and Recreation Department). Hagney has worked closely with the NatCap team throughout the past year.
“Our hope is the results from this report are able to galvanize action to expand urban agriculture in San Antonio; helping policymakers do things like increase tool access for would-be farmers or food foresters, use vacant lots as potential long leases for urban farms, and include food forests in land management practices for our parks department and public works department,” said Hagney. “Hopefully, examples of how urban agriculture can flourish in this city can be applicable all throughout the rest of the United States, so every city can have environmentally-friendly and equitable urban agriculture plans.”
The report recommends that San Antonio aim for a mix of urban farms and food forests, carefully consider where to locate them in order to support neighborhoods with greater food insecurity, and address potential downsides of urban farms by offering alternative public green space and reducing nutrient runoff by limiting compost use. The NatCap team hopes to continue working with San Antonio to further support their expansion of urban farms and food forests. More information about NatCap’s urban-focused projects can be found here.
More from: Stanford University
The Latest Updates from Bing News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Will full synthetic oil make your engine last longer?
Unlike conventional motor oil, which is derived from crude oil, synthetic oil is artificially engineered in a laboratory. This process allows manufacturers to precisely tailor the oil’s molecular ...
- Molecular Motors: Methods and Protocols: 392 (Methods in Molecular Biology, 392) - Hardcover
the book is a treasure of data, facts, protocols, and references that nearly every cell biologist and biochemist with an interest in molecular motors will cherish." (Tzvi Tzfira, The Quarterly Review ...
- Team creates synthetic enzymes to unravel molecular mysteries
The team of researchers is using a new approach, called the Synthetic Processing (SynPro) system, in zebrafish to study how Vg1 is formed. By learning the molecular rules of signal formation in a ...
- Team creates synthetic enzymes to unravel molecular mysteries
A bioengineer has developed synthetic enzymes that can control the behavior of the signaling protein Vg1, which plays a key role in the development of muscle, bone and blood in vertebrate embryos.
- Molecular Nanotechnology Has Been Successful When Properly Funded
carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications, graphene oxide, carbon composites, hydrogen storage on nanoengineered carbon scaffolds, and synthesis of single-molecule nanomachines which ...
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- EXPLAINER: How does climate change affect farming and food security?
Expanding the amount of land being farmed – or boosting the use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers and developing new crop varieties – have long been accepted ways to grow more food. But agricultural ...
- Northcrest: Illuminated Forest at the Ken Reid Conservation Area
The event takes place in the Cedar Forest at the conservation area, located at 277 Kenrei Rd. near Lindsay, nightly from dusk until 9 p.m. until Dec. 31. Admission is $4 per vehicle. Donations are ...
- Homeowner flaunts their ‘mini food forest’ growing in their front lawn thanks to not having an HOA: ‘An HOA would think grass is better’
A proud resident of Northern California has been boasting about their “mini food forest” in their front yard, while also taking a jab at homeowners associations. They posted a picture of their lush, ...
- Food hygiene ratings given to three Waltham Forest establishments
New food hygiene ratings have been awarded to three of Waltham Forest’s establishments, the Food Standards Agency’s website shows.New food hygiene ratings have been awarded to three of Waltham ...
- Forest Service issues new food, refuse storage Order
the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has issued a new Forest Order that requires the proper storage of food and refuse (garbage) on all National Forest System lands in the Lake ...