Food is a shared necessity — but also a shared way of thinking, argues Carolyn Steel. Looking at food networks offers an unusual and illuminating way to explore how cities evolved.

Why you should listen

The question of how to feed cities may be one of the biggest contemporary questions, yet it's never asked: we take for granted that if we walk into a store or a restaurant, food will be there, magically coming from somewhere. Yet, think of it this way: just in London, every single day, 30 million meals must be provided. Without a reliable food supply, even the most modern city would collapse quickly. And most people today eat food of whose provenance they are unaware.

Architect and author Carolyn Steel uses food as a medium to "read" cities and understand how they work. In her book Hungry City she traces -- and puts into historical context -- food's journey from land to urban table and thence to sewer. Cities, like people, are what they eat.

What others say

“Hungry City is a smorgasbord of a book: dip into it and you will emerge with something fascinating.” — ReasonOnline

Carolyn Steel’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Carolyn Steel

How food shapes our cities: Carolyn Steel on

October 5, 2009

Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world. Understanding the flow of food will help us reconnect with what we […]

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Twitter Snapshot: Carolyn Steel asks how to feed a city

July 24, 2009

Carolyn Steel is a food urbanist, meaning she can explain what we all take for granted- our food and how it gets to us. In her talk today at TED Global 2009, she presented frightening stats about where food demand is headed in addition to gripping historical context about how the food chain has evolved. […]

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