Nebraskans spend $4.4 billion annually on food, and 90 percent of that money leaves the state. We have an opprtunity - and a need- to create comprehensive regional food systems in Nebraska that include farming and community gardening, processing, storage, distribution and transportation, and food access. The opportunity comes from positive attitude toward local foods and the growing national emphasis placed on food security, health and the environment.
While neither full-blown local nor regional food systems have yet to become part of Nebraska’s landscape, there is interest in local foods as demonstrated by national research and the increased number of farmers markets, food stands and grocery stores selling locally grown items. The critical first step toward making this change is to gather important baseline information from consumers, institutions, retail outlets and farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to determine what barriers and opportunities are in place and what the capacity and interest of Nebraska’s farmers are to meet the demand for locally grown food.
Regional food systems can address critical issues for rural communities by creating wealth and jobs in rural communities with the potential to repopulate rural areas. A strong regional food system would positively impact rural communities as the system would continue to grow, adding opportunities in processing, storage, distribution and transportation.
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