This groundbreaking 1996 report on the benefits of urban food growing contains 38 case studies from across the UK and beyond, showing how to take action yourself, and what government can do to help.


Growing Food in Cities: A report to highlight and promote the benefits of urban agriculture in the UKThis groundbreaking 1996 report on the benefits of urban food growing contains 38 case studies from across the UK and beyond, showing how to take action yourself, and what government can do to help.

In early 1995, the National Food Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture, Food and the Environment (SAFE) Alliance (which later merged to become Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming) decided to manage jointly the development of the Growing Food in Cities project. It was clear to us and to our members that the significant benefits of urban food growing were being ignored and that opportunities for developing its potential were being missed. This, we felt, was due to a lack of recognition and support for the concept in certain sectors; suspicions which were confirmed early on in the preparation of this report.

The organisations represented on the working party, many of which have been involved in urban food growing for some time, believed that it could provide an effective means of addressing a range of inter-connnected social, economic and environmental concerns. There was, they felt, a clear need for a report which would highlight the considerable advantages of urban food growing and explore how their own work might provide a base on which to develop future initiatives.

It would be foolish to suggest that this is not a complex issue. Constraints to growing food in cities, such as access to land and water, and the question of soil contamination, are very real and are explored here. Yet case studies throughout the report show how obstacles have been effectively overcome. The challenge now is for local and national government, voluntary bodies, the private sector and citizens to take the ideas and recommendations contained in this report further. The goal is for more food to be grown in cities. This report vividly demonstrates that social, health, environmental and other benefits will follow.

Since this Growing Food in Cities, and the subsequent City Harvest report, Sustain and London Food Link have launched the Capital Growth campaign, aiming to support the creation of 2,012 new community food growing spaces for London by the end of 2012. In addition, Sustain launched in 2012 the Big Dig campaign to promote volunteering and community food growing in seven cities around the UK. We have also supported community food growers through the Making Local Food Work and Ethical Eats programmes to take an enterprising approach to growing and selling urban food, with publications such as:

Report contents


Summary and recommendations

How to use this report


  • Why grow food?
  • Why in cities?
  • Why now?

2.The benefits of growing food in cities

  • Community Development
    • affirming identity and active citizenship
    • combating discrimination
    • preventing crime and rehabilitating offenders
  • Economic development
    • training for jobs and for living
    • creating local goods and services
    • building an alternative economy
  • Education
    • learning at school
    • acquiring skills beyond school
    • involving people with special needs
  • Environment
    • increasing biodiversity
    • tackling waste
    • reducing transport
  • Health
    • improving diets
    • encouraging physical activity
    • promoting mental health
  • Leisure
    • stimulating volunteering
    • generating sustainable tourism
    • developing arts and crafts
  • Sustainable neighbourhoods
    • reviving allotments
    • diversifying parks
    • regenerating housing developments

3. Taking action

  • Issues affecting food growers in cities
    • land
    • water
    • money and other inputs
    • people, knowledge and skills
  • Sources of useful information



Growing Food In Cities: The benefits of urban agriculture in the UK
96pp - 1996 | 542Kb


Published 1 Jan 1996

Capital Growth: We believe everyone should have the opportunity to grow food as part of a healthy, resilient food system and we are working with our network of growers in London to make this happen.

96pp - 1996


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