As consumers across the Nation express a growing interest in a closer connection to their food producers—whether through access to more localized markets and/or shorter supply chains— cities and regions have begun to regard the expansion of local food marketing activities as a critical component of their economic development strategies.
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Rising demand for locally produced, source-identified, and differentiated food products has generated a plethora of new and spinoff businesses in many communities, which aim to increase the range of and accessibility to local food items for both retail and wholesale customers.
In turn, this emergence of local food businesses has sparked a groundswell of financial support and interest from private foundations and public agencies on the assumption that the development of local food systems contributes to positive economic outcomes, especially with respect to local economic development and improved farm viability. Unfortunately, given the nascent nature of local food demand growth and the scarcity of available data, relatively few of these efforts have been guided by rigorous assessments.
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