Increasing food production in local urban and peri-urban areas is articulated as a potential way for local governments to achieve multiple sustainability outcomes (environmental, social, and human health). However, scientific judgements on localization are difficult to make because the degree of current food localization has not been systematically measured or defined across large numbers of cities. We develop new methods to quantify current local capacity for food production to meet total household agrifood demand, harmonizing bottom-up and top-down approaches to assess direct-plus-embodied agrifood demand of both fresh and processed foods. We find unique patterns of localization for different agrifoods, with 21% of U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) currently capable of local self-sufficiency for eggs and milk equivalents embodied in diet, versus 12% and 16% of MSAs self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables, respectively. Focusing only on the direct fresh food demand, increased current local capacity (e.g., 45% MSAs self-sufficient in direct fluid milk), which also increases with production distances around cities. Overall, significant agricultural production is found to already occur in and around U.S. MSAs for these items. Multivariable analysis finds that state policies that promote urban agriculture may influence greater localization, which, interestingly, is independent of population density. Such spatial demand–production analysis is the first step in informing sustainable city or regional food policies and envisioning spatial food supply chains to urban areas.
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