Most areas of the United States could feed between 80 to 100 percent of the local population with food grown or raised within 50 miles, says a study by the University of California, Merced, Ana Ibarra reported for the Merced Sun-Star. The study was published Monday in the science journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Researchers, who looked at farms near every major population center in the U.S. from 1850 to 2000, compared the potential calorie production to the city’s population to determine the percentage of regional population that could be fed, Ibarra wrote. Researchers, who said they expect data from 2000 to 2015 to yield similar results, said that large agricultural areas such as Merced, Fresno, and Sacramento have the farmland to feed 100 percent of their population, while a metro area like New York City could feed 5 percent of the population within 50 miles and 30 percent within 100 miles.
Researchers said the study’s findings “allow for longtime development of land preservation so that food production stays intact,” Ibarra wrote. “Policies and careful planning are needed to protect farmland suburbanization and to encourage local farming.”
Diet can make a difference in the results, researchers said, Ibarra wrote. “For example, local food around San Diego can support 35 percent of the people based on the U.S. diet. This jumps to 51 percent of the population if people switched to plant-based diets, the study showed.”