Food for all: Understanding Food Security in Urban and Rural Communities

food security blog cover picture
Food security is a complex topic. At its core, it refers to the state where all individuals have physical, social, and economic access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life. Achieving food security involves ensuring that food is available, accessible, affordable, and nutritionally adequate.
hot peppers, carrots, cucumbers and green things
In 2020, a staggering 2.4 billion people, or above 30 percent of the world’s population, were moderately or severely food-insecure, lacking regular access to adequate food.*
Availability refers to the physical presence of food in the market or within a community. It is about having enough food produced and supplied to meet the demand. As we have experienced more recently, relying solely on traditional agricultural practices and distant food sources can present challenges.
Accessibility refers to the ability of individuals to obtain food, both in terms of physical access (proximity to markets or food outlets) and economic access (affordability). Access to food can look quite different between urban and rural regions. It’s influenced by factors including population density, infrastructure, transportation, and proximity to agricultural resources.
This is obvious, but it’s a critical aspect of food security, as high prices can restrict people’s access to nutritious food. What is affordable for one person in a community may be out of reach for another. Since the Covid 19 pandemic, food banks and pantries have seen a surge in activity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, groceries in the US are 23% more expensive now than at the start of the pandemic, but wages have not kept up with inflation. 

Food security is more than just about having enough food but also about ensuring the food is nutritionally adequate. 

Nutritional adequacy refers to the concept of ensuring that your diet provides all the necessary nutrients your body needs for optimal health and well-being. It involves consuming a well-balanced combination of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). It is important that when we look at access to food, those food sources include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

hands pulling out a head of lettuce

Food insecurity- from coast to coast to coast.

Food security goes hand in hand with global trade. Some countries rely heavily on imported food, which can be a risky business; imports face risks when disruptions occur in international supply chains or when prices surge. Sound familiar?

Often when people think of food insecurity, extremely remote regions come to mind, but the reality is it’s a global issue that touches both rural and urban areas in unique ways.

Rural areas

Rural areas, particularly in developing countries, rely on agriculture as a primary source of livelihood. Climate change, land degradation, and limited access to modern farming techniques can further increase food insecurity in rural regions.

Lower population density and less developed infrastructure in rural areas lead to fewer grocery stores and markets within a community. This scarcity can make it challenging for people living in remote regions to access a diverse selection of fresh food. Indigenous communities experience disproportionately high rates of food insecurity, stemming from historical injustices, limited resources, and isolation.

green house rack/greenhouse pictures, with a man harvesting

In these regions, it’s important to establish partnerships with educational institutions or organizations to provide knowledge sharing and skills transfer. We have seen a positive shift in funding opportunities from local governments, agricultural agencies, or community development organizations that recognize the value that vertical farms can bring to rural areas.

City dwellers

The world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Today, more than half of the global population lives in urban areas; this is forecast to be around two-thirds by 2050. Food security in urban regions needs serious attention and action!

In cities, there are unique challenges when it comes to making sure people have enough nutritious food to eat. Urban farming can improve affordability by reducing transportation costs and shortening the supply chain. When communities grow their own food or support local urban farms, they can access fresh produce at lower prices, making it more economically feasible for individuals and families with limited financial resources. Urban farms can include community gardens, rooftop farms, and hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic facilities, whether for personal consumption, commercial sale, education, or therapy.

In Canada and the United States, food insecurity exists despite overall economic growth Factors such as income inequality, poverty, and limited access to affordable, nutritious food contribute to the problem.
The US is a major producer of fresh food; however, they are not immune to loss of crops from increased droughts, floods and storms, pest outbreaks from invasive species, and loss of fertile agricultural land.
dried cracked ground

Localizing food sources

There is enormous pressure on food systems worldwide. As set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, there is a need to transition towards more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable food systems.
Increasing domestic production plays a crucial part in maintaining food security and ensuring access to safe, nutritious food, preservation of natural resources, and climate change mitigation. It’s not the only solution, but a part of the food security puzzle. Innovations already exist, including the advancement of indoor farming and controlled environment agriculture, to address some of these issues. At ZipGrow Inc. we are happy to see that local food systems’ role is gradually drawing the attention of the general public, policy-makers, and researchers.
veggies in baskets in the grocery store

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