Across the U.S., city leaders are prioritizing urban resilience in response to both natural disasters and economic shocks. While many definitions for resilience exist, at the core are three basic principles: the ability to adapt to changing conditions, withstand disruptions, and return to pre-existing conditions. Resilience planning is concerned with the time period between the immediate aftermath of a shock and the return to pre-existing conditions, rather than the short-term emergency response period. Until recently, food systems have been largely left out of resilience planning efforts. Most cities expect to provide residents with food for a relatively short period of time—a few weeks at most—during the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. But as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, food system disruptions may last months or years.

ICIC has become a leader in the nascent field of urban food system resilience research. In 2015, we were commissioned by the City of Boston to analyze the resilience of Boston’s food system. The report, Resilient Food Systems, Resilient Cities, has influenced city leaders in Boston to take steps to address the resilience issues we identified in our report.

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We have continued to refine our thinking around urban food resilience  Our latest research, conducted with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, makes a strong case that city leaders should bring food systems to the forefront of urban resilience planning. The report, The Resilience of America’s Food Systems: Evidence from Five Cites, outlines a playbook for city leaders with five recommendations to strengthen the resilience of their urban food systems to natural disasters and thereby ensure that food access in all neighborhoods returns to pre-disaster levels as quickly as possible.

Download the Executive Summary

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