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Harnessing the power of local food systems

August 11, 2017 / Carolina Small Business / Economy

Today we have some great resources to share about the impact of local food systems in our economy and communities.

First, early this month the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, USDA Rural Development and USDA Agricultural Marketing Service published a new book, Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform CommunitiesThe entire book is available for download ( you can download individual chapters here). Harvesting Opportunity includes contributions from food advocacy organizations, trade organizations, CDFIs, academia, government, and other financial organizations. It includes chapters that span the food system, from equity and economic development, to inclusion and innovation.

A key aspect of this book is that it takes into account the potential to support low- and moderate- income people. These vulnerable communities are often unable to access the benefits of a local food system. Many live in food deserts, where accessing fresh healthy foods is difficult, if not nearly impossible, and when there is access the foods can be prohibitively expensive. There is a tension between the need to support local and sustainable agriculture, and the need to make such foods affordable to lower-income households. But as stated in the forward, “with appropriately targeted policies and support,t he attendant opportunities can advance the economic and financial security of LMI households and communities.”

We have not yet had a chance to thoroughly read the book and its findings, but stay tuned for future blog posts as we will share our thoughts as we dive in.

The second resource is a new NC Local Food Infrastructure Inventory, published by NC Growing Together and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council in July. This amazing map provides a comprehensive source for North Carolina’s businesses that are a part of the local food supply chains, included processors, wholesalers and distributors, food hubs, community kitchens, incubator farms, and cold storage locations (but it does not include retailers). The map can be filtered by category, county, Council of Government regions, and Cooperative Extension Districts. The results are provided in a list below the map that can be exported into a spreadsheet.

This is such a great resource for understanding the landscape of our state’s local food system, and all of the players involved in the supply chain. These types of resources that show what is happening on the ground provide a good starting point for thinking about the types of policies and supports we need to strengthen the system and expand access.