The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices

Local and Regional Food Systems

Year of Publication:



Dawn Thilmany McFadden et al.

As consumers across the nation express a growing interest in a closer connection to their food producers—whether through access to more localized markets and/or shorter supply chains—cities and regions have begun to regard the expansion of local food marketing activities as a critical component of their economic development strategies. In response, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has formed new initiatives and programs to develop new markets and support existing markets so that producers and their communities may leverage these new opportunities, including the Local Foods Promotion Program with great expectations of positive outcomes, but no standardized approach on how to evaluate market and economic outcomes.

As a result, a team of regional economists and food system specialists have developed a Toolkit comprised of food system assessment principles and economic indicators a community may expect to share. The Toolkit is grounded in practices that are credible and useable within the economic development discussions guiding communities. The goal of this Toolkit is to guide and enhance the capacity of local organizations to make more deliberate and credible measurements of local and regional economic activity and other ancillary benefits.

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