"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 showing food production, distribution, processing through consumption and waste recovery.

Sue, add a new image here.

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.

Sue, add a new image here.

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

Local Food Resources

Book Agroecology Now! Transformations Towards More Just & Sustainable Food Systems, 2020 by Anderson, et.al. open access book.

Core competencies in food system work - We are honored to be part of this vital project to develop a framework for what we need to know and to share resources on ways to extend our knowledge and skills in food systems work.

Racial Equity Toolkit, National Young Farmers Coalition 2020 (PDF)

Identifying Outcomes for Program Evaluation: Examples Outcomes for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training Efforts (PDF, UC Santa Cruz, January 2020)

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.

San Diego County Food Vision 2030 (released 2020) 

Standards and Metrics:  One Place Doesn't Fit All: Improving the Effectiveness of Sustainability Standards by Accounting for Place, by Becca Jablonski et.al., Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, September 2020 

Transformation of our Food Systems - Key messages and book of essays (PDF) assessing food system development from an international perspective.  (October, 2020)

Rural Food Access Toolkit (2020) - thoroughly researched tool from the rural Advancement Network

Social Determinants of Health in Rural Areas Toolkit - complete toolkit including food access

American Planning Association Growing Food Connections Clear activities for local government policy and action (Hint:  not a sleeper planning doc!)

Building Community Capacity around Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers - workshop series on USDA programs (2020)

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

Comprehensive local food economic resource list from the fab folks at CO State University 

Cornell Cooperative Extension - Toolkit for Asset Mapping a Food System.

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

Food Charter Examples:

  • What is a food charter? Food charters drive visions, actions, and strategies for civically engaged food systems.  A food charter is generally a statement of values and principles that can guide food policy development related to food security. A food charter guides the entire community (private sector, educational institutions, service organizations, families, faith-based groups, etc.)  in supporting broad community goals for they food system. A food charter allows community members and other stakeholders to share their vision of what their food system and food security look like for their community. A food charter can help secure the commitment from local government, businesses and others to move towards building a food system that truly meets community needs.  Thoughts on what is a food charter from ND State University.
  • Michigan Good Food Charter  
  • Maryland Food Charter - strategic plan; purpose to educate, leverage and target resources, build political will, engage stakeholders
  • City of Vancouver Food Charter (2007) Clear vision and principles
  • Minnesota Food Charter - more like a full strategic plan;  stories of implementation 
  • Summit County (doesn't say which state) Food Charter - simple, clear and to the point
  • Philadelphia Food Charter (2008) [PDF] - vision, goals
  • Example of steps and challenges in creating food charters. Note that not all charters serve the same purpose. Some charters describe vision and principles and some describe strategies; some look at "what" or "desired state" and others look at "how".

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

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

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

Food System Assessment Examples:

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

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

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


New USDA AMS research publication

Recent Marketing Services Publications from USDA AMS:








2 Responses to Food System
  1. Hi Greg, One of best lists of commercial kitchens is at The Kitchen Door https://www.thekitchendoor.com/kitchen-rental/texas. Good luck with your bone broth!

  2. I’m looking for a commercial kitchen to process our organic bones to broth.


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