The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to build resilient urban food systems and create healthier cities. Urban farming is the key to achieving this goal, but the relevant empirical evidence is limited. This study quantitatively examined the relationship between access to local food through urban agriculture and subjective concerns about the well-being, physical activity, and food security of neighborhood communities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was conducted in Tokyo (Japan), where small-scale local food systems are widespread in walkable neighborhoods.
It was found that diversity in access to local food, from self-cultivation to direct sales to the consumer, was significantly associated with health and food safety variables. In particular, the use of agricultural plots was more strongly associated with subjective well-being than the use of urban parks, and was more strongly associated with the mitigation of food security problems than the use of food retailers. These findings provide solid evidence of the effectiveness of integrating urban agriculture into walkable neighborhoods. Given the rise in food insecurity, global awareness has grown about the importance of strengthening urban agriculture in order to develop more resilient urban food systems and create healthier cities.18,19 In fact, our empirical evidence suggests that urban agriculture in walkable neighborhoods, particularly plot farms and direct sales to the consumer at agricultural posts, helped to mitigate food security issues in neighboring communities.
Urban agriculture in walkable neighborhoods paid off for the health and resilience of the food system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long commute times to work and high rates of train congestion have been a problem in suburban Tokyo, but remote workers have gained more time in their homes and surroundings by reducing their travel times and increasing their opportunities to access local food in their walkable neighborhoods. In addition, direct-to-consumer sales at farm stands are the easiest way to get fresh local food for those who don't have the time or space to grow family plots and gardens. In cities where there is no farmland in intraurban areas, it would be beneficial to use underused spaces, such as vacant lots and rooftops, as productive urban landscapes.
This would involve collaboration between urban farmers and local businesses and organizations. Such collaborations could include providing access to land for farming activities, providing resources such as water or composting facilities, or providing marketing support for farmers' products. In addition, urban agriculture can bring external benefits to the global environment by reducing the carbon footprint of food production and distribution processes and by switching food consumption to greener diets7,8,9,10. Collaborations between urban farmers and local businesses and organizations could help promote these green initiatives by providing resources such as composting facilities or marketing support for green products.