American agriculture has faced increasingly difficult circumstances in recent years. As metropolitan areas expand, farmland is growing scarcer. Furthermore, energy costs are rising, and consequently farming is becoming more expensive. At the same time, America faces a growing obesity problem, and an increasing number of citizen have limited or no access to healthy, fresh foods. Many government, nonprofit and regional planning organizations (RPOs) have initiated programs to address these problems by connecting local food producers with local consumers and facilitating a market for local food products. RPOs across the country study and implement programs and policies to strengthen their regional “food systems;” all of the processes and infrastructure that go into the production, storage, processing, transportation, marketing, and distribution of local food.
Food Systems Policy Brief
Regional councils have been involved in various food system initiatives, including research, land use planning, infrastructure planning, and food sector economic development. On a national level, the U.S. Farm Bill is the most influential federal food and agriculture legislation that can either promote or hinder the market to expand local and regional food systems. The 2008 Farm Bill made unprecedented investments in bolstering the local food market through the Rural Development Title. These investments are under consideration during current reauthorization activities. Lawmakers have the opportunity to continue to invest in small and local farms and communities.
For more information on Farm Bill Reauthorization, see the NARC issue page HERE.
NARC Member Case Studies
- Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), Bend, OR: COIC’s food system programs include community garden promotion, farmers’ market promotion, a Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign, and the creation of the Central Oregon Food Policy Council. COIC is working with a collaborative network to develop a sustainable food system to integrate food production, processing, distribution, and consumption, focusing on locally produced goods. The core services of the Regional Food system program are to provide Feasibility and Pre-Feasibility, Project Development, and Marketing and Outreach.
- Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), Philadelphia, PA:DVRPC conducted the Greater Philadelphia Food System Study, followed by the Greater Philadelphia Food System Plan, which identify gaps in the Philadelphia-area food system and propose solutions. Through the Plan, DVRPC and the Greater Philadelphia Food System Stakeholder Committee seeks to support local agriculture and grow the local food economy while improving profitability for farmers, protect the environment, and ensure safety, security, and healthfulness of food and the food supply.
- Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Council (MORPC), Columbus, OH: MORPC created the Central Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan, which proposes programs to combat the lack of local food system infrastructure in the area. One of its top recommendations was to establish local food councils to help each of the region’s 12 counties implement the other recommendations. So far, the region boasts five councils, while at least three other counties have laid foundations for local councils. Additionally, MORPC was a partner in establishing The Food District at Weindland Park in Columbus, OH. See a video of that groundbreaking economic, community development and workforce development project HERE, which was recently highlighted as a national best practice by the USDA.
Food Systems Resources
- Building Local and Regional Food Systems, 2013 NARC Annual Conference Workshop
- Regional Food System Program and Resource Guide: This guide is intended to provide resources for planning organizations interested in developing or expanding their food systems plan.
- Regional Food Systems Case Studies
Healthy Food Financing Initiative
- Healthy Food Financing Initiative: This initiative supports projects that increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities that currently lack these options. Through a range of programs, HFFI will expand the availability of nutritious food, including developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corners stores, and farmers markets selling healthy food.
U. S. Department of Agriculture
- Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2): KYF2 is a USDA-wide effort to strengthen local and regional food systems. A surge in consumer demand for locally-produced food is creating jobs and opportunity throughout rural America. The KYF2 mission is to support the critical connection between farmers and consumers and to strengthen USDA’s support for local and regional food systems and to It break down silos, develops solutions, and foster new partnerships inside USDA and across the country. The site is a portal to resources about and supporting the local food movement.
- Regional Food Hub Resource Guide: This resource guide was created as part of the KYF2 initiative to identify and profile regional food systems and hubs around the country to collect and analyze data on the scope and scale of food hub operations in order to more clearly understand their potential role and impact in the U.S. food system as well as the ongoing challenges and impediments they face.
Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program: Community Food Projects will award funding to projects designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals and increase community self-reliance concerning food and nutrition. Funding is also designed to meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agricultural needs including needs relating to infrastructure, planning for long-term solutions, or marketing.
- Farmers Market Promotion Program: This program was established by the 2002 farm bill to improve or expand existing farmers’ markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities, and to develop or aid in the development of new farmers’ markets, etc.
- Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program: This program was created to provide public funding for comprehensive and collaborative efforts to end hunger at the community level. The Farm Bill authorized $5 million in funding for Hunger-Free Communities grants. Through this program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks to identify new strategies or combinations of strategies that support the creation of Hunger-Free Communities by helping fund research, planning, and hunger relief activities.
- Food and Nutrition Information Center – Community Food Systems: Listing of various resources and programs promoting community food.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Community Development Block Grant Program: This is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1209 general units of local government and States.
- American Farmland Trust: The trust works to save family farms by building community support for agriculture, improving market opportunities and ensuring access to land for the next generation. It is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land.
- Community Farm Alliance: The farm alliance envisions a food and fiber system for Kentucky that provides safe, adequate, and nutritious food for human consumption in a manner that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable and is a vital component of the state’s economy.
- Community Food Security Coalition: This coalition is made up of 325 member organizations who focus on social and economic justice, the environment, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, community development, labor, anti-poverty, and anti-hunger initiatives. (LINK??)
- National FoodRoutes Network: The FoodRoutes Network is dedicated to reintroducing Americans to their food– the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry it from the fields to our tables. It provides communications tools, technical support, networking and information resources to organizations nationwide that are working to rebuild local, community-based food systems.
- National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition: This is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC’s vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities.