USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released its 2009-10 School Food Purchase Study, which provides national estimates of the quantity, value and unit price of food acquisitions by school districts participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. This year, the Survey for the first time asked specifically if school districts were purchasing local food and included questions about the total value of purchases and the major items purchased.
School district responses provide an important baseline for tracking the national progress of local food purchases by school food service programs. The responses showed that about 2 out of every 10 school districts surveyed purchased local produce for school meals during the 2009-10 school year, based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 416 school district food service directors about practices for purchasing food for school meal programs. An additional 12 percent indicated that they are in the process of developing a program for buying locally grown produce. Read more »
This morning at the Ohio Grown: Local Food Creating Local Opportunities conference at The Ohio State University, I had the pleasure of announcing that Ohio is the first state to join the interstate meat shipment program created by the 2008 Farm Bill. The program provides an opportunity for state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines, helping these small businesses access new markets.
Before, state-inspected meat facilities like these were limited to selling their products within the state. This new program ensures that they meet federal food safety standards, which will be administered by state food inspectors and agriculture officials and overseen by USDA. Several small meat processors in Ohio plan to lead the way as the first state-inspected facilities in the country to take advantage of the program.
For example, Ben Fligner, owner of Great Lakes Smoked Meats in Lorain, is proud to be able to expand a business that produces 35 varieties of fully-cooked smoked meat products like andouille sausage, kielbasa, bratwurst and knackwurst. Read more »
In every state, people are connecting directly with their food each time they bite into a local apple, grill a local steak or create a salad with local ingredients. Local food is about the products that farmers and ranchers grow and raise. It’s about the businesses that bring food from farms to our tables, and efforts to connect consumers with producers like farm to school and agritourism. And it’s about the sense of pride behind campaigns like “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” “Appalachian Grown,” or “Idaho Preferred” that let consumers know their food dollar is flowing back into their local economy. Women play a prominent role in developing local and regional food systems that are creating jobs, pulling new people into agriculture, connecting communities, and improving health.
On Tuesday, July 17th at 3:00pm EDT, Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, and I will join inspiring women leaders in the field of local foods through a Google+ Hangout to hear their stories and answer your questions. It’s also a chance to see more stories like theirs when we unveil the 2.0 version of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. An innovative digital guide and map, the KYF Compass highlights USDA-supported local food projects around the country. The 2.0 version features thousands of local food projects in all 50 states and includes keyword and zip code search features. Read more »
Cross posted from the Huffington Post Food blog:
This week I was at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago to talk about the business of local food. The conversation focused on how USDA and other federal agencies can work together with the private sector to harness the economic potential of local food across the Midwest. Joining me were executives, economic developers, and experts from businesses you may have heard of — Sysco, Chartwells, SuperValu, General Electric, Feeding America, Whole Foods Market and FamilyFarmed.org. There were also representatives from local, state and federal government ranging from USDA’s agencies to the Illinois Commerce Department — each recognizing how investments in local food can help stimulate the economy, create jobs and complement our country’s current agricultural system.
According the USDA’s own research, local food sales made through direct marketing sales like farmers markets, CSAs, and farm stands plus via supermarkets, restaurants and institutional buyers were close to $5 billion. Fruit, vegetable and nut growers selling into local and regional markets employ 13 fulltime workers per $1 million in revenue earned. Why is this? Part of it is consumer demand. In 2011, over 85 percent of the customers polled by National Grocers Association said they chose grocery stores based in part on whether they stock local products. Part of it is flexible business models that can nimbly and quickly respond to the market. Farms selling locally may grow a wider variety of crops, they may pack or process on the farm or use workers to transport and market their products. Regardless, local food has big potential for job creation and economic opportunity. Read more »
Fans at the Lucas Oil Stadium, pictured here, will be served three flavors of chili made from organic and locally grown ingredients. The USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the certification of USDA organic products. (Photo by Carl Van Rooy)
There’s a new menu item in town for the Super Bowl: white bean chili made with organic beans and vegetables. The push to bring organic and locally-grown options to the concession stand came from a partnership between non-profits that support family farms, celebrities and Centerplate, the NFL’s largest concession provider.
The USDA National Organic Program—within the Agricultural Marketing Service—oversees the certification of USDA organic products. We also certify third-party agents around the world to uphold the integrity of the organic label. Read more »
Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass. Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.
As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve talked with more and more consumers who want a personal relationship with their food and are demanding to know more about it, where it came from and how it got to their plate. I’ve also talked with more and more producers who see the growing market demand for local food as a ripe business opportunity. One of USDA’s goals is to connect the two. Read more »