"Food system" is the general term used to describe the economic network of food production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and resource/waste recovery.

What is a local food system?

sustainable local food system is an economic network in which food production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and resource/waste recovery (composting) are tied to a geographic region, such as north Texas. The farms and ranches producing food typically, but not always, use sustainable and organic farming practices. In a local food system, the food travels few miles within the system and creates local jobs. Most of the food we eat in Texas is produced outside our state, mostly California and Mexico, so our Texas food system is not very local.

Local Foods System Diagram

What is the Local Food Value Chain?

Looking at our food system from the perspective of value and equity adds new perspectives to our food system.  We call this the value chain. For example, in the food system diagram above, we can understand the mechanics of the flow of food and money from the farm through distributors, grocers, then to consumers, and then back to compost and the soil.
In the diagram to the right, we have added the perspective of shared mission values and shared operational values.  For example, the restaurant in this system would share the consumer value of supporting small family farms.  The distributor would share the value of paying family farms a fair price for their crops and paying their workers a living wage.
Another way to think about the Local Food Value Chain is that each person or company in this system gets value, as they define it, from their participation in the system.  A mom might want her son to eat healthy meals at school because she values the health of her son (who wouldn’t?).  She also may prefer to spend her money on locally grown food because she values the economic return from buying from Texas businesses.  In the Local Food Value Chain, this mom would get value from sending her child to a school that serves healthy Texas grown food.
The work we do at the Texas Center for Local Food is centered on the Local Food Value Chain.  We hope you will stay in touch as we grow and learn together.
Diagram showing food system from production through consumption and resource recovery adding perspectives of shared mission values and shared operational values.

Local Food Value Chain

Here at the Texas Center for Local Food, with your support, we are collaborating broadly to create new sustainable food systems.

Local Food Resources

The Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook is a free database of degree programs, consultants, scholarships, funding, conferences, and other education and training resources for professionals and students focused on food systems work. It is published by the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems.  http://www.fssourcebook.org/

Nourish Food + Community has engaging videos, curricula, and leanring materials for K-12; useful for all ages. (Worldlink)

Discovering Our Food System Curriculum for teaching youth ages 12-18.  Useful as a framework for other audiences. (Cornell Univ)

FoodSpan is a free, downloadable curriculum providing high school students with a deep understanding of critical food system issues, empowering them to make healthy and responsible food choices, and encouraging them to become advocates for food system change.

Coursera offers a free online class on U.S Food Systems designed for adults.  We highly recommend this 6-week class! (Johns Hopkins Univ)

Movie:  Food, Inc.  Breakthrough film about the current food system in the US.

Movie:  Fresh!  If Food, Inc. bummed you out, then watch Fresh to feel less overwhelmed and ready to act.

Terrific set of maps describing the U.S. food system from the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN)

Video from the City of Chicago introducing the reasons they are strengthing their local food economy.

Interactive map of food policy councils maintained by Drake Univ.

Article by agricultural economist John Ikerd, "The Sustainable Food System Imperative; Change is No Longer Optional"

USDA Local Foods resources and USDA Know Your Farmer website

Is Your Farmers' Market a Sham? (Outside magazine, Feb. 2015) - When you buy at your farmers' market, are the products really grown nearby? also see: At Tampa Bay Farm-to-Table Restaurants, You Are Being Fed Fiction (Tampa Bay Times, April, 2016)

The City of Austin's food systems work is the best in the state.  Their site has an excellent list of reports about Austin and central Texas.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has a Texas office full of talented people to support food systems work.  Call on them!

Food Policy Councils in Dallas, HoustonAustinTarrant County, and San Antonio are exploring food system issues in their regions.

Sustainable Food Center in Austin has cooking classes and volunteer opportunities to help you learn more about the food you eat.

Climate change and food systems - U.S. household food purchasing a major source of greenhouse gas emissions; 2018 Research from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

Michigan Good Food Charter 

Economics of Local Food Systems Toolkit - step by step guide developed by USDA and in use across the country

Maryland Food Charter - clear purpose to educate and inform, leverage and target resources, build political will, engage stakeholders

USDA AMS publication: Community Supported Agriculture - New Models for Changing Markets 

Fairtrade America's Summer 2017 Reading List 

Designing a Renewable Food System learning by comparing to renewable energy sector Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jan., 2017

The Crossroads Center many excellent food system assessments are examples of what's possible in Texas!

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Lane County, Oregon Local Food Market Analysis and their study Growing the Economy by Growing Food

Local Food Systems:Concepts, Impacts, and Issues (PDF; USDA Economic Research Service, May, 2010)

Portland, Oregon region food studies and assessments

USDA Cooperative Extension - Community Food System Resources - Current and dynamic resources for community food systems

Local Governments and Local Food Systems - survey results 2014 and 2015; Univ of MI with ICMA (Int'l City-County Mgmt Assoc)

Planning for Food Systems and Agriculture Index - PDF with links to assessments and planning tools (2011). Also see Farmland Information Center

Food Policy Resources - Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future

State Food System Plans - Vermont (2011),  Michigan (2014) and Michigan Good Food CharterMontana Food Mapping Project

New USDA AMS research publication

Recent Marketing Services Publications from USDA AMS:








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