Treasure Map

King County, Washington, has launched Local Food Finder, an interactive service that helps residents identify and shop from local farms:

“The mobile-friendly map is one of several ways King County is supporting local farmers who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted farmers markets and restaurant sales. It is a product of the Local Food Initiative that Executive Constantine created in 2014 to strengthen King County’s local food economy and increase equitable access to healthy, affordable food.”

Going Digital

Farmers markets in Oregon are embracing e-commerce in response to COVID-19, reports KTVZ:

“Farmers markets are an excellent source of local Oregon food, and while most remain open in their physical locations, many markets have responded to consumer demand by also adding online pre-order systems for their shoppers. This is an opportunity for consumers to support local businesses and preserve the farmers market industry, which serves communities across the state.”

Pigging Out

Julie Kendrick recent bought half a pig from a local organic farm. There were challenges beyond the budget hit:

“When I pick up my three 12-by-18-inch boxes of processed meat, I’ll need to cram them all into the basement freezer and hope I still have some space for my autumn garden harvest (not to mention ice cubes). Then, over the long winter, I’ll need to stay up-to-date on my inventory and cook it all wisely and well. According to the farm, a typical half-pig purchase includes 8 to 10 pounds of pork chops, three roasts, two quarter hams, 10 to 14 pounds of bacon, three pounds of ribs and 15 pounds of ground meat.”

Maturing Market

At NPR, Luke Runyon explains how farmers market sales are slowing—and why that might be a good thing:

“Farmers markets may be a good marketing tool for a small farm, but they can be onerous to prepare for, with slim profit margins, says Sarah Low, a USDA economist and lead author on the report.

“Because of that Low says farms are increasingly using middlemen to sell to restaurants, grocery stores and distributors. With an increasing share of their produce, dairy or meat going to those channels, some farmers may choose to forgo the farmers market.

“‘It’s just not as cost-effective for producers to be face-to-face with consumers,’ Low says. ‘A lot of farmers like to spend their time farming, not necessarily marketing food.'”

Crunching the Numbers

The Calhoun School, a private school in Manhattan, offers its students “a menu of nutritious whole foods, locally sourced and freshly prepared each day” at a purported food cost of just $3.12 per student. Dana Woldow points out that food is just one expense of a school lunch program:

“The hard reality is that public schools don’t have the whole $3 to spend on food because they also have to rely on that money to pay for cafeteria workers and overhead to run the operation. A more fair comparison than what Edutopia provides would include all of the costs of Eat Right Now, including labor and overhead. Add those costs to the $3.12 spent on food, and the full meal cost per student is likely to be closer to $8 than to $3.”

What Is Local Food?

The term is ill-defined in the market, reports Steve Holt:

“If potatoes are grown in Colorado, shipped to Texas for distribution, then shipped back to Denver, should they be marketed as local? Should a store hang a sign lauding its support of local farmers if it only carries one product grown within the state? Is it “local meat” if the animal was born and raised far away but slaughtered closer to market?”

Keeping It Local

Residents of Plains, Kansas, are trying to establish a local grocery store with fresh food:

“‘A grocery store is the heart of the town,’ said Jeanne Roberts, who is leading the effort to open a new shop. ‘In small towns, it’s the social gathering place. And when you don’t have that social gathering place and you’re going outside, then you don’t feel connected.'”

A Model for the Midwest?

A nonprofit developer is building a 24-acre food hub in Louisville “aimed at fertilizing a budding local food system,” reports Chad Bouchard. It’s an approach that could be replicated in other Midwestern states:

“Caroline Heine, co-founder and project director of Seed Capital Kentucky, said the hub will fill key gaps in the local food system, which analysts said could have an economic impact of to up to $800 million.

“‘Right now to get access to local food, we put the burden on farmers. They have to grow the food, they have to be the logistics department and truck the food in to wherever it’s going to be distributed, they have to be marketers, they have to sell the food,’ she said. ‘It’s a lot of risk that the farmers bear.'”

“A Student-Led Model of Food Recovery”

Ben Simon’s solution to hunger in America? Leftovers:

“Simon, 24, is cofounder of Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit organization that collects surplus food from college campuses and distributes it to hungry community members. He started FRN while studying at the University of Maryland in 2011 with seven other college students around the nation. Now, there are 104 colleges that are part of FRN’s network, along with countless volunteers who collect and distribute the food.”