Hungry City

How Food Shapes Our Lives

Carolyn Steel

Cities cover just 2% of the world’s surface, but consume 75% of the world’s resources.  Global food production increased by 145% in the last 4 decades of the 20th century – yet an estimated 800 million people are still hungry.  In 2005 British supermarkets sent half a million tonnes of edible food to landfill – the whole food sector put together sent 17 million tonnes.  One quarter of the British population is obese – one in three meals we eat is a ready meal


The relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our every day lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us – along with the countryside that feeds us. The gargantuan effort necessary to feed cities arguably has a greater social and physical impact on us and our planet than anything else we do. Yet few of us are conscious of the process and we rarely stop to wonder how food reaches our plates. Hungry City examines the way in which modern food production has damaged the balance of human existence, and reveals that we have yet to resolve a centuries-old dilemma – one which holds the key to a host of current problems, from obesity, the inexorable rise of the supermarkets, to the destruction of the natural world.

Carolyn Steel follows food on its journey – from the land (and sea) to market and supermarket, kitchen to table, waste-dump and back again – exploring the historical roots and the contemporary issues at each stage of food’s cycle. She shows how our lives and our environment are being manipulated but explains how we can change things for the better. Original, inspiring and written with infectious enthusiasm and belief, Hungry City illuminates an issue that is fundamental to us all.

First published by Chatto & Windus (Random House, UK) in 2008

Winner of the RSL Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction (now the Giles St Aubyn Award)


“One of those rare books – dense with detail, rippling with insight, and easy to read… This is everything we need to know”.
Johanna Thomas-Corr for The Scotsman

“Superb…Steel persuasively argues that it is food that has shaped our urban environments more powerfully than almost anything else…a wonderfully rich evocation of a relationship that has become distressingly weak, yet has been so historically powerful”.
Edwin Heathcote for The Financial Times

“It’s one of those rare books – dense with details, rippling with insight and easy to read…this is everything we need to know”.
William Leith for the Evening Standard

“Absolutely crammed with eye-opening facts and figures, a hugely readable account of the part we individually play in a global problem. Highly Recommended.”
Publishing News

Hungry City is a sinister real-life sequel to Animal Farm with the plot turned upside down by time in ways even George Orwell could not have foreseen.’

Exuberant, provocative … her desire that we understand better and think more about our food, how much we waste, how much energy it consumes and how we dispose of it – is in the real sense of the word vital.’
David Aaronovitch, The Times

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

“She can précis her specialist sources briskly, and her own direct research (e.g. a mega kitchen for cooking ready meals) is lively.”
Vera Rule, Guardian

“Steel emphasises that we all have the power to choose the way we eat…and thus help shape a healthy future world. Her hunger to know more propels Hungry City, which follows food’s fraught and fascinating journey to our kitchen tables”.
**** Review
Anita Sethi for Independent on Sunday

“A superb account of the uneasy relationship between the city and its means of sustenance”.
Ian Critchley for the Sunday Telegraph

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

“Lively, wide-ranging, endlessly inquisitive…explores the profligate cost of the separation of producers from consumers”.
Christopher Hirst

“Fascinating history of the co-dependence of a city and country… dip into it…fascinating”.
Real Food Festival

“This is for the person who knows everything about food but nothing about its source”.
Sunday Tribune

“An intense, fluid, intelligent, highly absorbing text that provokes vital questions about sustainability.”
Food Magazine

“A visionary book… One of the most compelling to have appeared on the city in recent years.”
Professor Kevin Morgan, International Planning Studies, 2010

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