Why Local Food Systems Matter Now More Than Ever

Community Stories

Why Local Food Systems Matter Now More Than Ever

JBF is part of the Local Regional Food System response to COVID-19

January 28, 2021

Read Time 3 mins

Why Local Food Systems Matter Now More Than Ever

Photo: Clay Williams

Last May, the James Beard Foundation joined a group of 17 organizations as part of “Local Food Systems Response to COVID, Building Better Beyond,” a project created by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and a research team led by the University of Kentucky, Colorado State University, and Penn State University. The project’s goal is to bring together communities in Local Regional Food Systems (LRFS) to support the communities’ existing efforts, share information, develop relationships, and conduct research to foster long term resilience.

COVID-19 has impacted all levels of the food system from production to processing to retail sales. This project aims to highlight the intersections of the challenges facing all sectors of the food system, and to help generate solutions and innovations among the member organizations.

As part of this ongoing partnership, JBF helped populate and develop resources for an online resource hubThe hub is geared towards all audiences—from consumers to restaurateurs to food processors.

To continue to understand the consequences of COVID-19 for LRFS, Colorado State University conducted a national survey of over 5,000 American households in the fall of 2020. The results reveal critical insights into changes in consumer food behavior during the pandemic, which can help guide businesses, policy makers, and community organizations along local and regional supply chains. Key takeaways include:

You can find a more comprehensive breakdown of the results and more information on the study here. This survey is part of a series that will continue through the summer of 2021.

JBF also helped to facilitate the “Emergency Food, Charity, and the Local Food System” webinar in December. Learn more about the webinar and watch a recording here.

Our work in this partnership is continuing into 2021. In February, Impact Programs Manager, Ashley Kosiak will be participating in the “Marketing Innovations when Restaurants Close: Local and Regional Food Systems Response to COVID-19” panel at the Ag Outlook Forum alongside two other partner organizations. Ashley will discuss the restaurant industry’s response to COVID-19 and what is needed to support restaurants in the future. Register for the forum and panel here. We’ll also be collaborating on the “Online Platforms: Pivots and Planning for the Future” webinar taking place on March 15 at 1:00 P.M. ET. You can learn more and register for the webinar here.

Learn more about our project with the USDA.

1. Note that we asked respondents to include pandemic-EBT benefits in this category. Pandemic-EBT (also referred to as P-EBT) is a benefit to school-aged children who would have been eligible for free or reduced-price meals in schools for March, April, or May; eligible households received an EBT card that provided extra food benefits. Accordingly, this method of food acquisition may be more heavily utilized during a point in time when these benefits were more substantial.

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