3 Ways to Support Your Local Economy Through Food

A group of four people in bright red t-shirts smiling while cooking peppers in an industrial kitchen

Explore the economic benefits of supporting local food businesses and entrepreneurs.

Where we spend our money matters – perhaps more than we know. There are often social and environmental consequences related to our buying habits that often go unseen by the consumer. But for the business owner down the street – the act of buying local is their lifeline.

Small food businesses, from grocers to farmers to restaurateurs, can have a big impact on their community. These businesses are community fixtures, sourcing local and creating new jobs. Supporting local entrepreneurs, especially minority-owned businesses, often means you are uplifting the entire local food system. With food spending accounting for 10-30% of our disposable income budget, where and what we spend on food can make a true economic impact.

Here are 3 easy ways to support your local economy through food.

#1: Seek out locally made products and local produce.

Behind every locally made product is a member of your community who is passionate about their craft. Launching a product takes immense resources and dedication to get to market. The best way to find local food products is to look on the label to see the specific place of origin. Vendors should also be able to tell you where products come from as well.

Some grocery stores have sections dedicated to locally produced food – especially produce. Many retailers will have stockpiles of seasonal, local produce due to its abundance. And when food is at the peak of supply, costs tend to be lower. Start reaping the benefits of eating seasonally and research in-season produce for the fall and winter and in-season produce in the spring and summer.

Let’s define ‘local.’ When it comes to food systems, local typically refers to an area within a county or a radius of 50-100 miles from the place where food is consumed. In our home state of Michigan, local produce is anything grown within the state’s borders.

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#2: Shop at farmer’s markets and buy direct from farmers.

An easy entry point into your local food system is a farmer’s market. It’s a chance to meet local farmers and food producers and experience the wide variety of offerings produced right there in your community. Additionally, many local farmers also offer you the chance to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which provides smaller scale farmers with a steady income. In return, CSA members receive fresh fruit, vegetables, and even meat.

Regional sales make up most transactions for small-scale farms, so be sure to check out your local farmers market and support food producers in your area. For those enrolled in SNAP/EBT, there are hundreds of farmers market locations where you can get more fruits and vegetables with our Double Up Food Bucks program. Across the country, you can also find your closest Double Up or nutrition incentive program.

Research shows that for every $1 invested in a healthy food incentive program like Double-Up, we can expect to see up to $3 in economic activity generated as a result.


#3: Eat at locally owned restaurants.

Dining at local restaurants and food trucks is a great way to experience culture. Whether the menu offers regional cuisine from near or far, the dishes can be as unique as their business. Plus, these food entrepreneurs often source local ingredients, especially farm-to-table businesses. They also create local jobs. All in all, your purchase benefits many components of the local economy and food systems.

Buying local means you support the entire food system.

When we start with food, we can identify solutions. We can build lasting partnerships and vibrant, thriving communities. And we find new ways to address long-standing inequalities.

If you share in our belief that it all starts with food, join us by signing up for our newsletter. We will help you stay connected to the latest learnings and action items so you can play an active role in supporting food entrepreneurs and driving equality in our food systems.

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