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There is widespread concern that the risk of food shocks — sudden disruptions to food supply — is increasing. It emerges that a city’s vulnerability to food shocks can be reduced by diversifying its supply chains.
More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is set to increase1 to 68% by 2050. These urban residents depend on supply chains to produce, procure, prepare and deliver food, and they are exposed to potential supply-chain disruptions and food shortages from changes in human activity and natural processes. There is growing recognition that food-system resilience needs to be improved, but how best to buffer against urban food shortages remains an open question for both research and policy. Writing in Nature, Gomez et al.2 assess how the flow of agricultural products to a city depends on the diversity of the city’s trading partners. The authors apply ideas from engineering — such as those used when ensuring infrastructure is protected from flooding — to inform the design of food systems that can buffer cities against food shortfalls.