U.S. consumers are increasingly concerned about the direct and indirect impact of their food choices. Consumers are “buying locally” in an effort to both improve food quality and safety and to address social or economic concerns, such as supporting job opportunities in the local economy or preserving farmland.
As a result, it is increasingly common for small-scale direct markets such as farmers’ markets and large-chain supermarkets to both compete to provide regionally sourced foods. Although the global food system continues to play an important role in meeting demand for food, emerging demand for regionally or locally sourced foods represents a small, but growing, share of the market.
Strengthening local and regional food systems in low-income countries is also a goal. Improved transportation facilities within countries make it possible for smallholder farmers to supply growing urban markets with fresh foods. With the expansion of transportation infrastructure, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, it is becoming increasingly possible to trade across national borders, and, in doing so, increase the economic resilience of rural communities and promote greater food security based on locally grown and preferred foods.
Local and regional markets strengthen the connections between producers and consumers. They increase the ability of producers to respond to consumers’ needs and wants. They also increase consumers’ awareness of the role of food and agriculture in their personal health and welfare. Strong regional food systems serve as the building blocks for a strong global food and agriculture system. With economies of scale and high-quality standards, the specific advantages of regional agro-ecosystems can be more fully tapped.