How Food Shapes Our Cities

In her recent TED Talk, Carolyn Steel takes a look at the history of food production and asks an important question: What would a modern city look like if it were centered around food?


Steel argues that an ideal city connects people and their food supplies in a symbiotic relationship: “The city looks after the country; the country will look after the city.” So, what would a culture centered around food and delivering food to the people really look like?

She makes reference to local farming and to permaculture, and I think these are so critical to a sustainable food system. Folks need to learn how to grow their own food and how to sustain themselves. As she mentions in the video, a few huge companies have a monopoly on our food supply, and that’s incredibly dangerous.

Steel also briefly touches on the inefficiencies of raising animals for food, saying that it takes ten times the grain to feed a human via an animal than if the human just ate that grain. While she doesn’t advocate vegetarianism or veganism, I think this argument is an excellent case for, at the very least, looking at the amount of meat in our diets. Not everyone is ready to give meat up completely, but cutting back can have such a powerful environmental impact, and from what she’s saying it sounds like it’s a critical part of ensuring that we will be able to feed our growing population.

So what do you guys think? What are the key components of a city centered around food?

Image Credit:
London. Creative Commons photo by James Cridland
Farmers Market. Creative Commons photo by Kansas Explorer

About The Author

2 thoughts on “How Food Shapes Our Cities”

  1. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can make the statement “that it takes ten times the grain to feed a human via an animal than if the human just ate that grain” and not be an advocate for vegan and vegetarianism. Not to mention the unnecessary and immense cruelty to animals and the complete degradation of the environment of factory farm practices in this country. And the better health that comes from a vegan way of eating! If you know about all of these things are still eating meat, you are saying that you just don’t care about these things. If you are honestly committing yourself to cut back on animal foods significantly, than that is one thing. But for most people “cutting back” is something they just talk about and they just continue doing the same thing they always have been doing.

  2. Jessica, I’m with you all the way! :)

    I try to keep things on the moderate side, because I feel like folks are more receptive, you know? Not everyone is ready to go full on vegan overnight, but even if you can get an omnivore to try a few vegan meals a week, that has an impact.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top