Food Local Systems | 5 mins read

Supporting Food Local Systems

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Cynthia Vespia

By Cynthia Vespia

What are Food Local Systems?

A local food system is a collaboration of sources that seek to enhance the economic, environmental and health or a local area. A network of food processors, food distributors, consumption and waste management, and food production companies come together to anchor local food systems. These are often referred to as "food hubs."

A food hub is determined by the USDA to be any facility that is centrally located which facilitates aggregation, processing, storage, distribution and marketing of locally produced foods. Food hubs provide better access for the smaller food producers to access markets. This increases access for consumers to get healthy, fresh foods especially in under served areas.

The localization of a food system also provides benefits for building wealth in the community. A study on the United States Northeast Ohio region discovered that if 25 percent of agriculture was localized it would create 27,664 new jobs. That means employment for 1 in 8 residents and an economic surge of $4.2 billion with $126 million in state and local taxes. The shift would also provide increased food security and lower the carbon footprint of the region which directly improves public health.

Some of the other roles a local food system plays includes these reasons-

  1. Growth, food processing and food distribution in a local or regional setting will create jobs for the community and continue to sustain them.
  2. Direct marketing channels between through farmer's markets where farmers and consumers come together can boost local income for the farmers.
  3. Small, family-owned farms put their money back into the community by spending on farm-related supplies, machinery and more. A large, industrial farm isn't likely to do that. The smaller farms are also not going to harm the physical surroundings of the community as they engage in safer farming practices.
  4. Farmers markets and food cooperatives are methods to keep finances circulating throughout the localities and offers more growth and vibrancy throughout the communities.
  5. Urban agriculture takes a vacated tract and makes it into something more productive. The change prompts more income to generate within the space and creates more job opportunities for residents.
These are just a few of the financial and economic reasons why local food systems can be beneficial for the communities.

  1. Growth
  2. Direct marketing
  3. Small farms put their money back into the community.
  4. Farmers markets keep finances circulating within the community.
  5. Urban agriculture produces job opportunities.

Why Supporting Food Local Systems is Important

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Local food systems are an important part of the communities they represent. More consumers in the United States are seeking out fresh, healthy options for their food especially as it relates to produce and it is influencing local farms and food producers.

Farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, and farm-to-table restaurants are growing nationwide to meet the demand for health and freshness. An economic research service has tracked the local regional food systems and took note of the growth. Since 1994 new farmers market locations have grown from 2,000 across the nation to more than 8,000 as of 2019. Here's why....

Increased nutritional value

Local food cannot travel long distances so to sustain the freshness, it's ripened naturally. For example if a fruit or vegetable is picked, it will lose the nutritional benefits after 24 hours. That's a small window to sustain freshness so changes are put in place to preserve the nutritional value.

Local foods are only picked at their peak time of ripeness to retain more of their natural nutrients. A research service in Montclair State University compared the vitamin C between locally grown and imported bushels of broccoli. The results showed the imported broccoli had lost over half of the vitamin C content while the locally grown bushel retained its nutritional value.

Benefits the Environment

CO2 emissions brought on by food mileage are decreased when more locally grown food is eaten. Rich Pirog, a researcher with Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, provided a piece of research that tracked the travel of produce within the United States. It showed a single piece of produce traveled over 1,500 miles as compared to local food source which only accounted for 100 miles or less of travel time.

Seed Diversity

Heirloom fruits and vegetables grown by small farms offer greater diversity to the marketplace. These organic farmers create a food system that is resilient and more sustainable. Their seeds represent centuries of conservation and cultivation used to grow the fruits and vegetables. Each seed is passed down through generations resulting in a relaxed generation that isn't worried about having seed scarcity for local foods.

Supports Local Economy

When money is spent on locally grown food products it circulates throughout the community. During recent economic studies it was noted by researchers that a continued flow of economic stimulus through a region has a universal impact in the community at large. They studied the effects of purchasing vegetables at a supermarket compared to buying them from a local farmers' market. The results showed twice the amount of dollars remained flowing through the community when people bought the local option. It showed positive reinforcement for economic viability at the local level.

Community & Connection

Local food systems have a massive impact strengthening connections throughout the community. When food is grown locally and then distributed to local channels it creates sustained jobs which helps enrich the community. CSA programs, farmers markets and food related co-ops all help to keep food moving locally. Communities remain strong and vibrant with this capability. Plus, these types of environments offer true human connection between growers and consumers. Creativity and values are reflected throughout the markets keeping the history of food alive.

  • Retain nutritional value
  • Are environmentally friendly
  • Have more seed diversity
  • Supports the local economy
  • Creates connection in the community

A Conclusion to Support Food Local Systems

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  • Supporting food local systems generates growth and economic influence throughout the region where the systems are put in place.
  • Local food systems- have more nutritional value, don't impact the environment; include seed diversity; improves the local economy; creates connection.
  • Support for food local systems positively impacts both the community and the land for centuries.
  • Since 1994, an increase in farmers market and locally sourced foods has grown to meet the demand of health-conscious consumers.