Overview

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.

Highlights from recent report on local foods

In January 2015, ERS published a report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress (see link below). The report provides the latest estimates on sales and farm participation in local food systems, 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. 

Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress