Local Foods System Symposium

Gathering of local food community and University affiliates

The local food system movement is gaining momentum in the country and many organizations are promoting awareness of local foods to keep economic benefits within the community. On October 22, 2014 Office of Public Engagement hosted a Local Food System symposium on campus. The symposium brought together people from diverse disciplines on campus and from the community who have interest in local foods and local economy. The focus of the half-day symposium was on identifying gaps in the infrastructure, processing, storage, marketing, distribution and consumption of local foods. The participants considered ways in which University and community can work together to make the local food system efficient for the local economy. Several gaps have been identified and approaches to developing ideas to fill the gaps will be addressed in future meetings of people interested in the area.

All participants took part in a design process activity to identify gaps in the local food system. First part of the activity involved small groups of participants who worked to identify different kinds of producers, market makers and consumers. Each group of participants was pre-selected to represent a multi-disciplinary group of people. The participants filled worksheets and discussed the assets of each kind of producer/consumer/market maker, their needs, availability of what is needed and what needs to change if not available. From the resulting topics few were selected based on a vote by participants. This was followed by discussion in groups of interest with focus on what needs to change, what are the barriers that need to be modified, what new systems or processes need to be developed, who will be able to provide the labor and capital to bring the change and who would champion the change.

The activity resulted in identifying issues of interest to the local food community. The issues identified by participants were:

  • Aggregation of producers to deal with large buyers
  • Food hub – a balance of supply and demand
  • Infrastructure for institutional buyers
  • Processing – value-added
  • Market making – educating a new generation of consumers
  • Availability and affordability for consumers
  • Lobbying, Policy, Market making