Baltimore Report Examines Urban Food System Resilience

The Baltimore Office of Sustainability (BoS) and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) recently released the the Baltimore Food System Resilience Advisory Report which examines methods of improving food system resilience. Urban resilience crisis events has three basic principles: the ability to adapt to changing conditions, to withstand disruptions, and to return to pre-existing conditions. Food systems have been largely left out of urban resilience planning efforts as it is often expected that residents would only have to be provided with food for a relatively short period of time. But, as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, food system disruptions may last months or years.

Crisis events could be be weather-related, biological, social, political, or economic, and could occur on a local or global scale. They could affect the food system by disrupting deliveries, causing food shortages or price hikes, closing food pantries, and more. The report states that currently, one in five Baltimore City residents is food insecure, while one in four live in food deserts. A crisis event would only exacerbate these problems.

Baltimore City planners have already formed an Emergency Food Working Group to develop a short-term protocol for responding to emergencies.Initial meetings of the group resulted in the creation of a ‘Plan for Food Access During Incidents and Disasters.’ This Advisory Report expands upon the plan by focusing not only on response strategies for the acute crisis period, but also on advance actions that can reduce the impact and recovery time for future crisis events, and on response strategies for crises that occur over longer time frames.

“Baltimore is one of the first cities in the country to assess and plan for resilience at all levels of the food system,” said Roni Neff of the CLF, who oversaw the study. “This approach has a lot of potential to help drive the policy innovations that Baltimore and other cities need to protect residents’ access to safe, healthy and affordable food for years to come.”