Cheap Food Is Making Us Hungry.

Food Security   //     when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life

– definition agreed to at the 1996 World Food Summit

Relating ‘Alice’,a fictional, Australian, middle-class wife and mother of two, to our speculative object exposed significant concerns regarding todays food supply. Forming our scenario on the basis that in 2050 the S.H.I.F.T (Self-sustaining Hydroponic Individual Food Tray) would alleviate world hunger, we envisioned a healthier, more equal, and more plentiful food system.

But how do we reach that goal for the poor?

‘an estimated 70% of the World’s poor live in Rural areas and depend either directly or indirectly on agriculture. Cheap food has made them hungry and kept them in poverty’ 

(Wise 2010)

It is popular belief that if crops yield more produce, food becomes cheaper and world hunger dissolves. But this is incorrect. By making food cheaper, farmers lose income, reducing the number of farmers and the money invested into producing more food in the long run. Globalisation is currently devaluing food. And with the ‘current and unabated trend of diminishing food supply, rising food prices and falling food production’ (Abbassian 2011), poor countries and those in lower socio-economic classes are being significantly hit.

This is unacceptable.

Today’s Situation.

  1. The poor are moving to the city at a faster rate than the population as a whole. (Chen & Ravallion 2007)
  2. If current trends continue, the world’s slum population will increase 50% between now and 2020. (Carolan 2011)

It is a recognised fact that low-income urban neighbourhoods tend to have ‘fewer grocery stores and more quick-stop type convenience stores’. (Lane et all 2008) In other words, the only food the poor can afford in significant quantities are ‘energy-dense (nutrient shallow) foods’. (Carolan 2011) And just think of the health consequences.

Food security must be reclaimed. 


Carolan is emphatic – ‘we will not feed the world any time soon with vertical farming. (But) that is why it deserves a closer look, because without serious study vertical agriculture will remain a future possibility rather than a practical option’ (Carolan 2011). Food levels are decreasing, population is rising and there needs to be new and innovative thinking to ensure food security.

Cue Augustin Rosenstiehl, a French, principal architect at Atlier SOA and director of the Agricultural Urbanism Lab (LUA); a multi-disciplinary project that focuses on the complementarity between environmental and social diversity within the problems of urban agriculture. (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2012) Focusing on just how to integrate the farm into the city, Rosenstiehl has been in discussion with farmers, philosophers, sociologists, and agronomists since 2010, developing a small network of ‘case studies’ over Paris. Working with anything from sociology and economics in the rural world to agriculture and agronomy, Rosenstiehl has delivered amazing, and very impressive projects.

It is well worth your time to check them out here.


Make sure you discover Urbanana 2011, isn’t the name perfect? Visually Urbanana is beautiful. Located on the Champs-Elysées it provides ‘an attractive landscape of fruit trees growing in a brightly lit space on the street’ (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011) – the lighting, vital for the banana’s growth, provides a substitute for street lighting at night. Clever.

And even better – The Urbanana questions the impact on the economy of banana-producing countries. Because whilst the banana is a key source of income for Caribbean economies, its intensive production has caused considerable environmental damage. ‘The drive for productivity at any price, inadequate waste management, soil depletion and packing methods are now threatening these countries with bankruptcy.’ (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011)

SOA_URBANANA_ exterieur nuit 2

SOA_URBANANA_ interieur haut



All images – (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011)


Abbassian A 2011, World Food Prices Reach New Historic Peak, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011, Urbanana / SOA, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2012, Ideas, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Carolan M 2011, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, 1st ed., Routledge, New York

Chen S & Ravallion M 2007, The Changing Profile of Poverty in the World – October 2007, 2020 Focus Brief on the World’s Poor and Hungry People, Washington, DC, Accessed 20 October 2014, <;


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