Revised February 2022
People are rediscovering the benefits of buying food locally. It is fresher than most produce in the supermarket and that means taste and nutrition are readily available to consumers. It is also good for local economies--buying directly from family farmers helps them stay in business. Nationwide, local foods are often sold directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture. Direct sales through these and other outlets are a small but growing part of U.S. agriculture. Sales of locally produced food occur through other outlets, too. Local products may show up in supermarkets, restaurants, and schools, and a growing number of major food retailers are introducing local food sourcing initiatives. (USDA)
Local and regional food systems have grown in popularity over the past decade as shown by the increasing supply of and demand for local foods. Some evidence of this growth includes nearly tripling the number of farmers’ markets, and the initiation of thousands of farm-to-school programs across the U.S. Local foods have often topped consumer and food professional surveys of food trends.
Local food systems operate within the existing framework for all food regulations and policies. A quilt of public and non-profit organizations work to shape food policy and regulations. For example, food policy councils are comprised of a broad range of individuals from all aspects of a local food system. They review the local food system to develop policy recommendations and strategies for expanding and improving local food systems to meet specific challenges at local and State levels. A range of local, State, and Federal regulations guide marketing, food safety, licensing, and other activities related to food production and sale.