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Local and Regional Food Systems

Local and regional food systems, sometimes referred to as “community food systems,” are collaborative networks that integrate sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a particular place.

From Human Ecology

These networks reflect growing public interest in restoring the vital connections between agriculture, food, environment and health. Local and regional food system networks engage a wide range of community partners in projects to promote more locally-based, self-reliant food economies. Particular community projects and strategies vary, but most collaborations seek to increase resident participation to achieve one or more of the following goals (UC SAREP website:

  • A stable base of family farms that use sustainable production practices and emphasize local inputs;
  • Marketing and processing practices that create more direct links between farmers and consumers;
  • Improved access by all community members to an adequate, affordable, nutritious diet;
  • Food and agriculture-related businesses that create jobs and recirculate financial capital within the community;
  • Improved living and working conditions for farm and food system labor;
  • Creation of food and agriculture policies that promote local or sustainable food production, processing and consumption; and
  • Adoption of dietary behaviors that reflect concern about individual, environmental and community health.

While no local and regional food system can claim to fully embrace or embody all the
articulated goals, this framework provides an animating vision that spurs and sustains local action. Pursuing diverse goals simultaneously creates a host of practical and ethical challenges. These challenges, described more fully below, include 1) finding price points that work for farmers while ensuring low-income consumers have access to healthy food and food system workers have decent wages and benefits; 2) confronting racial and class bias while forging practical solutions; and 3) reconciling the desire to stay true to deeply held values with the need to compromise in order to achieve incremental changes (Campbell, Carlisle-Cummins & Feenstra, forthcoming). Negotiating tradeoffs among various goals and competing values is integral to this public work.

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Theme Topic Articles

Regional Cuisine - Food Security

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