Across the U.S., city leaders are prioritizing urban resilience in response to climate change, 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. Food systems have been largely left out of urban 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.

With leadership from Kim Zeuli, ICIC is at the forefront of the emerging field of urban food system resilience research. ICIC most recently partnered with Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto, with support from Cadmus (formerly Meister Consultants Group), to conduct a vulnerability assessment of Toronto’s food system. Resilient Food Systems, Resilient Cities: A High-Level Vulnerability Assessment of Toronto’s Food System, examines the potential impact of flooding, an extended heat wave, and a major winter ice storm on Toronto’s food supply, food access and public health issues.

ICIC research conducted with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation makes a strong case that city leaders should make food systems a priority in urban resilience planning. 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.

Read our Executive Summary blog

Read our blog on resilience and food waste

We were honored to have our work featured at RES/CON 2017: The Global Resilience Summit (the premier annual international conference on the practice of successful resilience and disaster management) in a session devoted to food system resilience.

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 leaders in the region to take steps to address food system vulnerabilities.

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Implementation Roadmap

Additional resources on urban food system resilience: 

A Call to Action for City Leaders: Create a Food System Resilient to Local Disruptions

Dear 2015: Create a Resilient Food System to Protect Your Most Vulnerable Residents

A Grocery Store in Every Neighborhood: Boston’s Quest to Eliminate Food Deserts


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