Johns Hopkins Report Analyzes the Benefits and Limitations of Urban Agriculture

From by Lani Furbank
Johns Hopkins Report Analyzes the Benefits and Limitations of Urban Agriculture

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Bloomberg School of Public Health recently released a report examining the benefits and limitations of urban agriculture. Called “Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots,” the review summarizes the sociocultural, health, environmental, and economic development aspects of urban and peri-urban agriculture. 

Since 1950, the urban population has jumped from 746 million to 3.9 billion. By 2050, according to the United Nations, 66 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. The presence of urban agriculture has grown in response to this shift.

The authors see urban agriculture as one of the many solutions needed to transform the food system. In the report, they discuss the most significant benefits, including the potential to increase social capital, community well-being, and civic engagement in the food system. The authors also highlight the economic, environmental, and health benefits—such as supplementing food security on various scales—providing ecosystem services to cities, improving the health of the residents, and offering opportunities to build skills and generate additional income.  

The report also brings attention to the gaps in current studies and writings. The authors suggest that more research is needed, particularly surrounding topics such as the impact and support potential of food policy councils, public institutions, and local governments.

Anne Palmer, director of the Food Communities and Public Health Program at the CLF and one of the co-authors of the study, explained the importance of this report, stating, “Accurately interpreting and communicating the potential merits of urban agriculture is essential. If its benefits are overstated, or limita­tions overlooked, urban agriculture may lose the cultural and political support necessary to sustain the services and benefits it can offer.”  

Read the full report here.

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