Research brief: A look at 377 metros -- can local food product meet local household demand?

October 01, 2018

Many U.S. cities have established goals to increase local food self-reliance, suggesting that metropolitan areas do not produce enough food to support local household demand. However, a new study from researchers with the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs found this isn't the case for many metropolitan areas.

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, looked at the actual food production and consumption patterns within the borders of 377 metropolitan areas across the country. Researchers found one in five have enough milk and egg production inside its borders to meet residents' demands, evaluated on an annual basis. About one in ten can fully meet the fruits and vegetable needs of its residents.

"The issue is not that we lack agricultural production in and around cities, but that our present-day supply chains may not be matching local production with local demand," said Peter Nixon, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering in the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

These statistics are noteworthy because the study found many metros have the capacity for local food production right now to fully meet both direct and indirect demand for four key items: milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Indirect demand includes food used as ingredients in processed food (e.g., eggs used in bread, tomatoes used in pasta sauce, milk in cheese and butter).

Some self-sufficient metros are in locations with a high concentration of specific agricultural production such as apples grown in Washington State and oranges grown in Florida. Milk and eggs were seen to be more broadly produced around urban areas across the U.S. For the urban areas that aren't self sufficient, researchers found the median local capacity is about five percent for eggs and fruits, 18 percent for dairy and 23 percent for vegetables. This means most of these metros already producing enough of these foods to supply a significant portion of local demand, yet locally produced food may not be making it to local consumers.

"Indeed, the results suggest that we should think carefully about what specific purposes increasing local agriculture in and around cities will serve--is it to boost the local economy or to serve underserved communities?" said Professor Anu Ramaswami, co-author and advisor on the study. "Our dataset can help individual urban areas understand their own particular situation with regard to production-demand for food as a starting point for further food systems planning."

Moving forward, the research team plans to work with individual cities to help prioritize urban food action planning to best meet their specific goals, context and stakeholders.
Funding was provided by the NSF Sustainability Research Network [grant SRN-1444745]; the National Science Foundation Partnerships in International Research and Education [grant PIRE-1243535]; and the University of Minnesota's Grand Challenges Research Initiative, which, under the auspices of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, supports novel interdisciplinary partnerships.

About the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota ranks among the country's top 10 professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national, and global levels and offers six distinctive master's degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs. Learn more at

University of Minnesota

Related Milk Articles from Brightsurf:

The "gold" in breast milk
Breast milk strengthens a child's immune system, supporting the intestinal flora.

Pasteurizing breast milk inactivates SARS-CoV-2
Pasteurizing breast milk using a common technique inactivates severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) making it safe for use, according to new research in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). ttps://

Milk lipids follow the evolution of mammals
Skoltech scientists conducted a study of milk lipids and described the unique features of human breast milk as compared to bovids, pigs, and closely related primates.

Raw milk may do more harm than good
Raw or unpasteurized cows' milk from U.S. retail stores can hold a huge amount of antimicrobial-resistant genes if left at room temperature, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Milk pioneers: East African herders consumed milk 5,000 years ago
Animal milk was essential to east African herders at least 5,000 years ago, according to a new study.

Breast milk may help prevent sepsis in preemies
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have found -- in newborn mice -- that a component of breast milk may help protect premature babies from developing life-threatening sepsis.

Drinking 1% rather than 2% milk accounts for 4.5 years of less aging in adults
A new study shows drinking low-fat milk -- both nonfat and 1% milk -- is significantly associated with less aging in adults.

Photoinitiators detected in human breast milk
Photoinitators (PIs) are compounds used in the ink of many types of food packaging.

Milk from teeth: Dental stem cells can generate milk-producing cells
Stem cells of the teeth can contribute to the regeneration of non-dental organs, namely mammary glands.

Micro-ribonucleic acid in milk:Health risk very unlikely
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) occurs in animal and plant cells and has many biological functions.

Read More: Milk News and Milk Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to