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According to a recent Brookings Institution study, Detroit has the highest rate of concentrated poverty in the United States. This high concentration of poverty puts an enormous strain on both food distribution centers like the Gleaners Community Food Bank, and local health care. According to Erica Peresman, director of philanthropy at Gleaners, about 700,000 people in the metropolitan area can’t afford to buy food.

It is the city’s responsibility to take action to improve quality of life for all of its residents. The abundance of abandoned buildings in Detroit provide the perfect opportunity for just that: development of urban farms.

In many European cities, urban farms have already taken root and are thriving. Take Urban Farmers in The Hague, Netherlands for example. The Hague Urban Farmers location incorporates both produce and fish production by making use of aquaponics. As Urban Farmers describes, “It combines vegetable and fish production: nutrients-rich waste water from fish production are recycled as fertilizer for vegetables, and plants can purify the water that will be reused for fish production. Our goal is to maximize resource efficiency. Aquaponics can save up to 90 percent water usage comparing to separate systems.”

If Detroit can develop facilities like this one, there will be an extensive impact on the community. The low demand for resources for this form of food production will create lower prices per unit in the long run, making nutritious foods more accessible to low-income people. As a result, the impoverished will face fewer health problems, and therefore put less strain on the healthcare system.

Urban agriculture allows for food production extremely close to city centers. Food has to travel far shorter distances from farm to table, which means the goods can retain their nutritional value without preservatives. Additionally, less energy and fossil fuels is expended upon transport for the goods, which reduces not only costs, but emissions, thus improving the air quality.

On top of that, an urban farm would provide several long-term jobs for the area. The farm could also hold a regular market to sell its goods. This sort of event would bring people together, encourage interactions and therefore increase social capital in the area and strengthen the community. If Detroit acts now, the city can provide a cheap source of healthy food for its low-income residents, improve health, improve air quality by decreasing emissions, increase social capital, and create jobs.

Olivia Corriere, Ann Arbor

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