The contributions are from researchers working on social, economic, political and ethical issues associated with food systems. The book's focus is on the analysis of and lessons obtained from specific experiences relevant to local food systems, such as tapping urban farmers markets to address issues of food access and public health, and use of zoning to restrict the density of fast food restaurants with the aim of reducing obesity rates. Other topics considered include building a local food business to address the twin problems of economic and nutritional distress, developing ways to reduce food waste and improve food access in poor urban neighborhoods, and asking whether the many, and diverse, hopes for urban agriculture are justified.
The chapters show that it is critical to conduct research on existing efforts to determine what works and to develop best practices in pursuit of sustainable and socially just urban food systems. The main examples discussed are from the United States, but the issues are applicable internationally.
To address these and related questions, the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asked the Committee on National Statistics to convene a panel of experts to provide advice for improving the data infrastructure on food consumption and nutrition. The panel was charged to review data needs to support research and decision making for food and nutrition policies and programs in USDA and to assess the adequacy of the current data infrastructure and recommend enhancements to improve it. The primary basis for the panel's deliberations, given limited resources, was a workshop on Enhancing the Data Infrastructure in Support of Food and Nutrition Programs, Research, and Decision Making, which the panel convened on May 27-28, 2004.
This report is based on the discussions at the workshop and the deliberations of the panel. The report outlines key data that are needed to better address questions related to food consumption, diet, and health; discusses the available data and some limitations of those data; and offers recommendations for improvements in those data. The panel was charged to consider USDA data needs for policy making and the focus of the report is on those needs.