While there is no consensus about how to define "local food systems" in terms of the geographic distance between production and consumption, defining "local" based on marketing arrangements—such as farmers selling directly to consumers at regional farmers' markets or to schools—is well recognized.
ERS research on local food systems:
- explores alternative definitions of local foods,
- estimates market size and reach,
- describes characteristics of local consumers and producers,
- examines the economic and health impacts of local food systems, and
- studies how food environment factors—such as store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, and community characteristics—interact to influence food choices and diet quality.
Upcoming Local Foods Webinar:
Join Economist Sarah Low on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. EST. Sarah will overview ERS’s forthcoming report, to be released on January 29th at 10 a.m., on local food systems, “Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress.” She will present the latest estimates on sales and farm participation in local food systems. She will also provide the first analyses comparing prices between direct-to-consumer outlets and conventional grocery outlets and local food farm growth and survival between 2007 and 2012. The webinar will include results from the USDA Farm to School census and the 2012 Census of Agriculture as well as an overview of the literature on consumer willingness to pay, environmental impacts, and policy related to local foods systems at the Federal, state, and local/regional levels.