1.25.2015

The Food Issues Book Club: Food and the City, Chapter 7

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Food and the City, Chapter 7: London - Capital Growth

Summary:

Russia leads the pack in home food growing, mainly out of necessity.  Berlin is also heavily engaged in the practice.  The UK, like the US, is steeped in industrial food, but is showing increased interest in urban farming.  One city farm in Bristol raises both crops and food animals, and runs a cafe that serves the food it produces.

Canadians carry on the
British allotment tradition
Allotment gardening, traditionally a pastime of the food-insecure of Brittan, has become popular with young urban professionals in the past decade - so much so that allotment wait lists can be years long.  This has encouraged some to develop effective methods of vegetable growing in small spaces such as balconies.  With a substantial investment of time and upkeep, such spaces can be as or more productive than the typical allotment.

The Crouch End neighborhood of London boasts the world's first grocery store rooftop vegetable garden.  Such endeavors help maintain biodiversity of food plants in urban areas, and support urban bee and butterfly populations.  However, such large-scale endeavors can require funding beyond earnings from produce sales even once the garden is fully productive.

During the London Olympics of 2012, efforts were made to feed athletes, staff, and visitors with the most local food possible.  Such endeavors help to normalize less industrial food practices in a food environment that has been completely industrialized.

Note: there are large sections in this chapter about urban vineyards.  I could not possibly care less about urban vineyards as they have zero implications for food security or anything else of import; they are absolute luxuries and every human on earth would be just fine if there was never another bottle of wine, ever.  So I'm not summarizing or discussing those sections.

Discussion:

This is a short chapter that touches on a number of subjects, and seems to again focus on relatively privileged people who have the means and access to purchase locally grown organic vegetables, but would rather grow their own.  This is certainly a trend that can be seen in many American cities, including right here in New Orleans.  After all, growing vegetables is physical, time-intensive work.  That might not look attractive to someone who perhaps works on their feet all day and has childcare to think about, even if they did have the space.

Crouch End might have had the first grocery rooftop veg garden, but it's not the only one.  In fact, we have one right here in New Orleans!  The Louisiana-owned Rouses chain frequently touts its Roots on the Rooftop garden at its Baronne Street location in local media, though shockingly little information is available about it online.  The video below gives a nice primer though.

Finally, I find the concept of normalizing non-industrial food to be fascinating - mainly because until at most 150 years ago there was no such thing as industrial food.  Moreover, it didn't become "normal" until the 1950s in the average household.  A few generations pass, and the way food was grown and distributed for centuries becomes unattainably foreign.  What short memories we have.

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