Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Forge Foodshed

Here's a new concept for analyzing food supplies in a given area: the notion of a "foodshed."

A foodshed is modeled after the idea of a watershed. A watershed includes all of the sources, paths, and destinations of water in a region. Studies of watersheds look at how water travels through a given area and how that water is used by a local community.

Replace the word "water" with the word "food," and you have the idea of a foodshed. Foodsheds, then, look at all of the ways that food is produced, transported, and used in a given community. Seeing the entire lifecycle of food helps to illuminate strengths and weaknesses in a community's food supply.

For instance, we in the Forge have numerous local shops in which to buy groceries. That aspect of our food supply is local. Local sources of food distribution are a strength in that they don't require a lot of energy to get access to them -- we could easily walk to them from our community.

However, most food in this country travels hundreds, even thousands, of miles to get to a shelf at Giant Food on York Road or Eddie's on Charles Street. That long supply line is dependent on many variables, including economic stability (in both our country and other countries), safety of foreign production, price of fuel, and trade agreements, just to name a few. A breakdown in one of these variables can easily cause disruption of food supply or price hikes. This long supply chain, then, is a weakness in our foodshed.

Part of the point of the whole yards-to-gardens movement is to add some resilience to our foodshed.

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