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Urban Food Systems & MREC

The UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center is continuing to evolve to meet the lifestyle horticulture needs and interests of its urban constituency in Central Florida.  Urban food systems are becoming a major element of MREC’s urban portfolio.

So what is an urban food system, and how can eating be considered a lifestyle choice?

People choose what they eat, and in the US, they have many choices, from the perhaps less healthy – burgers and fries chased with a Twinkie – to healthier fare.  Food that adds little to one’s health comes generally from a centralized system: food grown, processed, and sold across large distances.

UF/IFAS Extension hosts a group tour of Central Florida food systems in February 2018 led by Liz Felter, Ph.D., Central Florida regional specialist Extension agent.

That Twinkie started as wheat in eastern Washington, sugarcane in southern Florida, and its preservatives as chemicals in a Newark, New Jersey food lab.  A food system that is largely unknown, almost unknowable.

As obesity and diabetes worsens across the country, an unknown and unknowable food system is no longer OK for ever more consumers because too often it is not worthy of trust.

The 2018 Food Systems Tour focused on local and fresh produce in the Orlando area and methods used to grow food.

Urban food systems are decentralized, locally grown and distributed, healthy (typically organically grown) food from diverse sources– from small suburban farms to abandoned urban lots to indoor hydroponics in city centers.

Alluring to consumers is that an urban, local food system is knowable and so trustworthy.  MREC is stepping in to aid and expand urban food systems in Central Florida.

We will soon hire a new professor who will develop, understand and share information on barriers to urban food production and distribution, forming a team with MREC’s Liz Felter, Ph.D., who already works closely with the local food system players.

MREC is also celebrating its 50th anniversary fall 2018, honoring the past but especially showcasing its future lifestyle horticulture portfolio, particularly its work in urban food systems.

Written by Roger Kjelgren, Ph.D., MREC center director

Edited and posted by Angela Colonna

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