Local & Regional Food Systems

Important Update:

Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill. 

Wherever there’s local food, there are farmers feeding communities and strengthening local economies.  Farmers and ranchers are responding to skyrocketing demand for fresh, healthy food everywhere: at farmers markets, grocery stores, and in schools.

The surge in demand for food and agricultural products from local and regional sources creates both opportunities and challenges. Rising demand for healthy foods is an important incentive for farmers and ranchers, but many still face obstacles in getting their products to market – such as the lack of processing and distribution infrastructure needed to enable a local or regional food system to emerge.

Investing in local and regional food systems is a win-win for farmers, families, and local economies and communities.

NSAC led advocacy efforts that resulted in the 2014 Farm Bill making the biggest-ever federal investment – about $429 million – to support efforts that expand healthy food access, help farmers sell directly to consumers and add value to their products, and build needed infrastructure like food hubs, enabling farmers to reach more customers, like schools and grocery retailers.

This section of our guide provides an overview of the key federal programs focused on expanding local and regional food systems, from healthy food access and food security programs like Community Food Projects to the farmer-focused Value-Added Producer Grants. It includes programs directly available to producers as well as programs available to community-based organizations and institutions working on the ground to build and expand on the success of local and regional food efforts.