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Regional Food Systems

Squeezing a cantaloupe, sniffing a green pepper, or cupping a tomato is de rigueur for many on a weekend morning during the summer. Farmers markets are popping up in many communities to offer fresh food to area residents. Not only are many of the available products at each stand healthier options than packaged and processed foods, but buying them also helps support farmers and small businesses and ultimately contributes to the local economy.

During the Regional Food Systems session, 3 presenters discussed the impact of regional food systems on local economies and residents.


Debra Tropp, deputy director, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, began the session with some facts and stats. She noted that one-third of consumers surveyed say they consciously purchase local food at least once a week and are willing to pay more for it. “Shoppers want fresh food, food that’s nutritious, and food that’s more natural,” she said.

Becca Jablonski, assistant professor and food systems extension economist at Colorado State University, further delved into the economics of the recent local food trend. “If someone is willing to pay a premium for a food that’s labeled local, I’m for that,” Jablonski said. “It will put more money in the farmer’s pocket, and that will help the economic impact of the community.”

She continued, “It’s not just about local food—it’s about nutrition, putting people to work, bringing money into the community.”

Bill McKinney, director of research and evaluation at The Food Trust, uses food to teach folks about eating healthy and trying new foods that taste good and are good for you instead of relying on sugary or salty junk food. “I want people to stay away from [cheese curls] at the corner store,” he said. “I’m about the health of the individuals. If I can get someone to eat better today than yesterday then I don’t care if it’s local food or not.

“Less [cheese curls], man!” he emphatically continued. “If the kid wants a banana, even though we don’t grow bananas in Philadelphia, I want that kid to eat a banana.”