Areas of Expertise
Since 1996 the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has addressed some of the most pressing issues in the food system, building on and further developing expertise in critical areas that have a have profound impact on public health, the environment, ecosystems and social justice. Our work aligns with many of the United Nations’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noted for each Area of Expertise. For more about the Center’s connection to SDGs, read here. For more about the UN and the SDGs, read here.
Much of the world’s meat, dairy and egg production is characterized by large-scale, geographically-concentrated operations that rely on external inputs and inexpensive labor, and that are controlled by a small number of companies. These methods of production are dominant in high-income countries and increasingly common in lower- and middle-income countries. A growing body of evidence indicates that this industrial manner of animal production threatens rural communities, consumers and ecosystems, and compromises animal welfare. For more than 20 years, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has applied a public health lens to the ecological, economic, and social considerations across the spectrum of animal production methods.
Seafood plays a centrally important role in our food system and affects topics ranging from food security and nutritional status to increasing demand for crops to feed farmed fish and shrimp. Wild seafood is a critical resource facing multiple challenges, including overfishing, waste, changing ocean conditions caused by climate change, and environmental pollution. Aquaculture, or farmed seafood, provides over half of the seafood eaten globally, and while some production methods are highly sustainable, others are not and are associated with public health risks. At CLF, we explore the complex relationships involving wild and farmed seafood supply chains and their global implications for public health, our environment and depletion of natural resources.
More than ever, the world needs global collaboration and local action to prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change on food security and health. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future recognizes the critical role that the food system plays in both slowing down and adapting to climate change. We support shifts toward plant-rich diets and reduced food waste as critical actions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food. We also help food systems adapt to climate change by researching food system resilience and providing local governments with planning and policy tools to support food security after disasters.
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future engages in research, policy analysis, and technical assistance to advance food system change in local, tribal, institutional, state, federal and international policy. We build the capacity of partner organizations and food policy councils to advocate for a healthy, equitable, resilient and sustainable food system.
What we eat and how we produce it have significant effects on ecosystems beyond climate change, affecting land use, soil health, air and water quality, biodiversity, and, by virtue of these, human health. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future explores these connections and provides scientific advice on shifting toward diets that better align with public health and ecological goals through programs such as Meatless Monday, as well as research in modeling, policy, and communications.
The City of Baltimore is at the nexus of exciting food systems endeavors such as city-led policy initiatives, urban agriculture, and grassroots efforts to address food justice. Relying on strong partnerships with city government, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is addressing some of Baltimore's challenges, such as urban food system resilience, food insecurity and health inequities, through research, education and program activities that range from mapping the food environment to strengthening city policy, ensuring soil safety for urban farmers, and paving the way for food systems resilience planning. The CLF also operates a Food System Lab, where local students can learn about aquaponics and other sustainable farming practices.
From examining a neighborhood’s food environment to collaborating with policymakers to use geospatial mapping, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future explores the causes of food insecurity, inequity and poor access on the ability of a community to meet its food needs. By directing resources to areas with significant needs, we work with communities and policymakers to use data and stories to advocate for a more equitable, healthy and sustainable food system.
Thirty percent of our global food supply is lost or wasted, and the CLF is working to advance the Sustainable Development Goals target of halving that waste. We look at this issue through the lenses of public health, food systems, equity, and environment. We use an interdisciplinary portfolio of qualitative and quantitative tools to research: policy and interventions (with particular attention to unintended consequences), food distribution and donation, consumer behavior, communications, quantification, and seafood waste. We also engage in the policy, practice and communications activities necessary to translate evidence to real-world impact.
Climate change, population growth, and urbanization threaten urban food systems worldwide. Food systems—and their food processing, distribution and consumption networks—are vulnerable to many threats with both short- and long-term consequences. For example, severe storms can cause power outages, block roads or damage food warehouses and stores. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future deploys research, policy, and education to help make food systems more resilient—meaning they are strong enough to withstand and recover from crises. Building more resilient food systems ensures a more continuous supply of safe, accessible food.
As the world’s populations shift toward urban centers, meeting the needs of residents requires novel strategies that account for the city and its surrounding region. Urban places around the globe are reliant on rural communities to provide for their food needs. Greater emphasis on the inclusion of regional and local producers as part of a place can help to create more resilient supply chains and communities. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future explores the relationship of city-regions, from the value of urban food production and the safety of soil in urban gardens to mapping and shaping the food environment through policy.