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Chicago Leaders Call for Action on Urban Food Security

Matt Ball on June 19, 2013 - in Projects, Security

Today, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a report on urban food security from its Emerging Leaders Class of 2013. The group of 20 Chicago leaders has spent the last year developing an action plan for analyzing and addressing urban food security and the dual challenges of under-nutrition and obesity that have beset many urban centers.

Representatives of the Emerging Leaders Class of 2013 will present their report, Feeding an Urban World: A Call to Action, at a Chicago Council public event this evening. In it they propose Chicago utilize its extensive corporate, academic, philanthropic and public policy resources to assume a leadership role and become a model for other cities in addressing the challenges of feeding urban populations.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policy director, Mike Simmons, and global food security expert, Ambassador William J. Garvelink, also will deliver remarks and comment on the report at tonight’s event, which begins at 6:00 p.m. at the InterContinental Hotel, 505 North Michigan Avenue.

“As a long-standing leader in food production and distribution, historically earning the city the titles of ‘Nature’s Metropolis’ and ‘Hog Butcher to the World,’ Chicago is well positioned to spearhead efforts to address the emerging urban food issues of the 21st century,” said Joseph Seliga, a member of the Emerging Leaders Class of 2013 and partner at the law firm Mayer Brown.

Healthy, safe, nutritious food at an affordable price is particularly difficult to come by in urban centers with concentrated poverty such as Nairobi, Mumbai and Jakarta. In many ways, Chicago and other urban centers in the developed world are no different.

In Cook County, with a population of about 5.2 million people, over 800,000 residents are food insecure. Each year nearly 678,000 people rely on emergency and supplemental food provided by the Food Depository and its member network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

As in other urban centers around the world, food insecurity in Chicago corresponds with chronic obesity and undernourishment. Twenty-seven percent of the adult population in the Chicago metropolitan area is obese, with higher rates in many of the low-income neighborhoods of the city.

While these challenges are daunting, substantial work to address them is already underway. In January 2013, the city planning document, A Recipe for Healthy Places, outlined the policy priorities for the city in relation to food and nutrition.

Many of these priorities address the components of availability and utilization, but some also promote economic access to healthy foods. The City Council amended the Chicago zoning ordinance to help facilitate the further development of urban farms and community gardens by recognizing them as approved land uses and providing clear guidelines for their development in the city.

“These Emerging Leaders are committed to the future of Chicago, and with their report, offer diverse perspectives on how to address a global challenge in a city that is receptive to and known for innovation,” said Marshall M. Bouton, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “They were encouraged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to address this growing problem in Chicago and are confident that Chicago can become a global leader in this area.”

Co-chaired by Chicago Council Vice Chairs John F. Manley and Shirley Welsh Ryan, the Chicago Council’s Emerging Leaders Program assembles a class drawn from the best and the brightest emerging leaders from across business, civic, government and academic sectors from the Chicagoland area. Support for the program is generously provided by Manley, the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

About The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Founded in 1922, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is one of the oldest and most prominent international affairs organizations in the United States. Independent and nonpartisan, The Chicago Council is committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning. Long known for its studies of American public opinion on foreign policy, The Chicago Council has expanded its contributions to national and international discussions on issues such as the global economy, migration, agricultural development and food security, and energy and climate change. Through studies, task force reports, and special initiatives, The Chicago Council contributes fresh insights and authentic perspectives from Chicago and the Midwest to the formation of opinion and policy in the United States and abroad.

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