Municipalities such as towns, cities, counties, and other local governments play a vital role in supporting community members’ access to healthy food through law and policy. Municipal laws—which include ordinances, resolutions, and codified laws—can be tailored to fit local needs and priorities in ways that state and federal laws cannot. Of course, the ability of municipal governments to enact and implement these kinds of laws can vary; state and federal laws can, and sometimes do, preempt local authority. Nonetheless, communities, both small and large, urban and rural, are actively exploring a variety of policy ideas for improving access to healthy food for their residents. The Healthy Food Policy Project seeks to elevate examples of local laws and policies to help inspire communities in developing their own unique approaches to promoting access to healthy food for all.
The term “local food” is often used to describe situations where farmers or other producers sell food directly to consumers, such as at farmers’ markets. Although there is no consensus on how to define “local food,” the definition typically is linked to geographic distance between the producer and consumer,1 and/or can be based upon a region of the country, within a state, or within a specified radius (e.g., 100 miles).
Many people and institutions purchase local food because it is seasonal, fresher, tastes better, is more nutritious, and reduces environmental impacts. When consumers purchase food from local producers they can see first hand where their food is coming from, as well as support more sustainable growing practices and a diversified local economy.