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Local and Regional Food Systems: Community/Regional Development

An index of initiatives and resources related to local and regional food systems.

Community & Regional Development Resources

Convenient, affordable, and reliable access to safe nutritious food is important to the long term health of individuals, families and communities. How that food is produced and distributed can reveal a lot about the overall equity and sustainability of communities, regions and nations as a whole. Many are also recognizing the role food production and provision can play as an engine of economic and cultural renewal. A growing number of efforts are underway to assess and intentionally shape food systems based on this awareness, while increasing community capacity and resilence. The initiatives and resources listed here offer support and insight into this community and regional development work.

General Resources

Other Research Information Sources

Community & Regional Economic Development

  • Asset-Based Community Development Institute -Organization focused on helping local residents and organizations inventory and mobilize community resources
  • Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) network of business leaders, economic development professionals, government officials, social innovators, and community leaders helping build local living economies.
  • Community & Economic Development Resources at Cornell, including Cornell Community and Regional Development Institute (CARDI)
  • Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace, a study of locally owned food businesses from around the world.  Designed to highlight successful models of community food enterprises
  • Crossroads Resource Center -a non-profit organization that works with communities and their allies to foster democracy and local self-determination.  They specialize in devising new tools communities can use to create a more sustainable future, and offer several resources focused on local foods. Crossroads President, Ken Meter, is a recognized food system analyst whose work integrates market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns.
  • Food Systems and Rural Development programming (and grant funding) at the Kellogg Foundation
  • Marketshare - offers a variety of tools, resources and analysis supporting a learning community of public market practitioners "cultivating the field of public markets for public good".
  • Michigan Good Food Summit website, "envisioning a thriving economy, equity and sustainability for all of Michigan and its people through a food system rooted in local communities and centered on good food". Offers several useful work group reports, including one on food system infrastructure.
  • New Economy Working Group -The mission of the New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup) is to contribute to reframing the economic policy debate to address the social and environmental imperatives and opportunities of the 21st Century. The group's work is organized around nine action clusters including local living economies.
  • New York State Business Development Programs
  • Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD) -Dedicated to providing research-based information that helps create regional prosperity through entrepreneurial and cluster-based innovation, while assuring balanced uses of natural resources in livable communities in the northeastern United States.
  • RUPRI (Rural Policy Research Institute) is committed to promoting innovative, collaborative, and systems-based approaches to rural issues that engage decision-makers and rural people at local, regional, state, national, and international levels. Activities supporting economic development include:
    • Center for Rural Entrepreneurship providing rural communities with resources for implementing entrepreneurship as a core economic development strategy. The Center applies practice-driven research, development tools, and consultation services in participation with many partners – rural communities, development practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.
    • Rural Futures Lab aims to create a new future-oriented narrative for rural America. The focus is on the economic drivers that will make rural regions increasingly vital to the nation’s and the planet’s well-being in the coming decades, while ensuring that rural people are full partners in the stewardship and development of rural-based resources
  • SUS-CHAIN -Research project co-financed by the European Commission, with case studies and reports pertaining to sustainability in agro-food chains, including recommendations.
  • Wallace Center at Winrock International supports entrepreneurs and communities as they build a new, 21st century food system that is healthier for people, the environment, and the economy.
  • Wealth Creation in Rural Communities offers useful approaches for improving rural livelihoods with a systems approach to development that creates multiple forms of wealth owned and controlled locally.

Community Food Security/Food Systems Assessment

Terminology
To better understand needs and opportunities, many communities and regions are conducting systematic assessments of their food systems. Exact terms and approaches vary depending on the participants and priorities, including assessments focusing on food systems, food security, and foodsheds. Many of these also contain elements of a local economic assessment.

One of the more commonly used terms, Community Food Assessment (CFA), has been defined as:

 “a collaborative and participatory process that systematically examines a broad range of community food issues and assets, so as to inform change actions to make the community more food secure" (from Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) publication What's Cooking in Your Food System: A Guide to Community Food Assessment).

Characteristics
Though each assessment process is unique, with the shape and outcomes defined by the communities themselves, most CFAs have three basic characteristics in common (WHY Hunger Food Security Learning Center). They:

  1. Use an asset building approach, seeking ways to tap into and build on existing community resources.
  2. Engage community members to help set priorities, conduct research, and develop recommendations.
  3. Have an action orientation and include recommendations for changes; many also include specific action plans and organizing efforts to help implement these changes.

Asset Based Approaches
Asset based programming is critical to many community and regional development initiatives, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, shifting priorities, perspectives and approaches to grassroots organizing. As stated in the Southern SAWG document Growing the Community Food Movement:

“All-too-often, very well intending individuals and organizations plan their work with an intent to 'fix' communities through food. Invariably, the assets of people who do not have access to quality foods on a regular basis are overlooked. This leads to a great deal of resentment and further distance between the food have's and have not's. Most important, it further drives a deeper wedge into the local food system. This does little to increase the affordability and availability of foods. Furthermore, it perpetuates an important myth in community food systems-we are helping them. You cannot improve the local food system without helping yourself-we are them...Deficit based language creates hierarchical thinking and behavior. But, it is also suggests how power dynamics are demonstrated on the ground. Asset based language is powerful. It is inextricably linked to asset based approaches to community food organizing.”

Systems Approaches
Systems approaches seek to understand the broader complex social, economic and environmental dynamics of food production, provision and consumption as an interrelated system, not simply as a combination of elements.  Some CFAs offer very linear or compartmentalized views of food issues.  Systems based assessments should draw on a tradition of systems analysis (there are many), explicitly defining what makes a food system systemic, and what tools are used in analyzing those systems.  Depending on the approach and methods used, different things in the system will be revealed. GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) and other databases are sometimes created and used to assist in this process.

These resources offer an introduction to application of systems approaches to food systems and related project development:

  • The Family and Community Food Decision-Making Toolbox offers Community Food System (CFS) tool as a mapping exercise that helps participants to understand what constitutes a food system and how their agency fits into the current system. It also encourages participants to take an active role in improving their food system and building effective food system partnerships.
  • CFSC document Whole Measures for Community Food Systems is a values-based, community-oriented tool for evaluation, planning, and dialogue geared toward organizational and community change. Whole Measures CFS invites organizations to build on the reporting of outputs and outcomes and to highlight and measure the multitude of interconnected indicators that define a healthy, whole community.
  • USDA/NIFA Systems Science Grantsmanship Workshops archive. Learn how to use a systems approach and transdisciplinary teams to meet challenges faced by producers and consumers. Includes presentations on stakeholder engagement, systems thinking, and project evaluation. Upcoming USDA workshops listed here.
  • Wealth Creation/WealthWorks approach emphasizes communities inventorying multiple forms of wealth generating capital, including intellectual, individual, social, natural, built, political, financial and cultural assets.

Resources
The following sites provide general examples and supporting materials related to food systems/food security assessment:

Food Policy Councils

An increasing number of communities, regions and states are forming "Food Policy Councils" to collaboratively evaluate and improve their food system. According to the (now defunct) North American Food Policy Council:

"Food Policy Councils (FPCs) bring stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop recommendations on how to improve it. FPCs may take many forms, but are typically either commissioned by state or local government, or predominately a grassroots effort. Food policy councils have been successful at educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs, and starting new programs."

Resources

The following sites offer examples and supporting resources related to Food Policy Councils:

  • Agriculture & Public Health Gateway Food Policy Council Page, maintained by Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
  • Food Policy Networks (FPN) A project of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, supports the development of effective and robust food policy at the state and local levels. Resource list including an extensive database represents food policy work in the form of action plans, how-to guides, ordinances, academic studies and more.
  • Drake Agricultural Law Center Food Policy & Food Policy Councils Page
  • Food Policy Networks (FPN), a project of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, will support the development of effective and robust food policy at the state and local levels by working with existing food policy councils, national organizations and other interested groups. 
  • Hunger Action Network of New York State is actively involved in supporting food policy work in NYS.
  • Interactive Google Map of Food Policy Councils with links to respective pages/documents
  • Mark Winne is a recognized food policy expert who writes, speaks, and consults extensively on a range of community food system topics. His website archives a number of essential documents related to food policy councils and local food system networks.
  • New York State Council on Food Policy brings the public, producers and government together to explore ways in which we can improve our existing food production and delivery systems, expand capacity and ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers. NYS CFP develops and makes recommendations to the Governor on state regulations, legislation and budget proposals in the area of food policy.
  • New York State Food Policy Network -A new statewide food policy network initiated by NOFA-NY and Hunger Action Network.
  • WHY Food Security Learning Center Food Policy Councils Page Developed in partnership with CFSC, provides program profiles, glossary, action alerts and more. Other topics in the food security learning center might also be useful for councils’ programming.

Food Hubs

While CSAs, farmers markets and farm stands have provided a jump start to the local food movement, many (including farmers) are recognizing the need for infrastructure that better supports the longterm needs and interests of communities and food systems stakeholders, and enables regional scaling. “Food Hub” projects are becoming an increasingly popular approach in addressing weaknesses, or the “missing middle” in local and regional food systems. Their focus can vary widely from a narrow emphasis on supporting market efficiency to goals of building an inclusive, equitable and diverse food culture. Food hubs can consist of physical facilities, community services and/or communication/coordination systems. Information technology is increasingly being used as part of this effort to bridge gaps in food networks –some of these are listed in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) section of this guide.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Resource Center defines food hubs as:

“activities supporting the coordination of value chain activities along the value chain, including the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”

The National Food Hub Collaboration, a partnership among USDA, the Wallace Center at Winrock InternationalNational Good Food Network, National Association of Produce Market Managers, and Project for Public Spaces, is working to promote food hubs in the US. The Collaboration collects and analyzes the latest data, research and activities related to food hubs and works to ensure the success of existing and emerging food hubs in the United States.

A number of food hub initiatives are listed in this guide, particularly on the NYS Regions and Other Regions pages. Here are a few information resources related to food hubs:

Spatial Analysis & Mapping of Food Systems

Many initiatives and resources listed elsewhere in this guide (including Assessment and Food Policy Council sections) provide examples of how spatial analysis and mapping can be used to better understand and support local and regional food systems. In some cases formal application of GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) technology is used. The Data section of this guide provides a list of other sources to draw from in conducting these types of analysis, including many social and environmental indicators.

Here are resources specifically relating to the spatial analysis and mapping of food systems and related indicators. Most are relevant to New York State or the US. Mann Library maintains this separate list which includes more sources of international data.

  • Agricultural Development Assistance Mapping (ADAM) tool is a FAO developed platform that gathers information from diverse databases about agricultural development needs, objectives, in-country activities, and funding modalities, and aggregates the data to generate customizable maps, matrices and charts.
  • AgDevOnline Food Systems Mapping resources
  • CARES (the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems) offers several online resources for using geographic information technologies to better understand human, natural resource, and environmental issues and problems.
  • Center for Disease Control Chronic Disease GIS Exchange -Site designed for public health managers, community leaders, GIS users, epidemiologists, and others interested in using GIS to prevent heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. The intent is to provide a forum for sharing specific examples, ideas and techniques for using GIS to document geographic disparities, inform policy and program development, and build partnerships.
  • CommunityCommons.org -An interactive mapping, networking, and learning utility for the broad-based healthy, sustainable, and livable communities’ movement. Includes several collections of maps and data, and groups related to food
  • Compost Facilities Map (NYS) -Cornell Waste Management Institute
  • Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository (CUGIR) CUGIR provides geospatial data and metadata for New York State, with a special emphasis on agriculture, ecology, natural resources, and human-environment interactions. Includes Ag district, soils and demographic data. Most data requires the use of specialized GIS software (find more info on the Data Tools and Guide pages)
  • County Health Rankings & Roadmaps help communities create solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities, focusing on specific factors that we know affect health, such as education and income
  • Maryland Food System Mapping Resource -Food systems mapping resources from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF). Developed to examine the current landscape of Maryland’s food system from farm to plate, and inform activities aimed at strengthening that system.
  • Equitable Development Toolkit -Community Mapping from PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity.
  • ESRI Resources
    • Agriculture Data Model A structured and standardized information environment in the supply chain following commodities from the farm field to the finished food products. This model provides a framework to help develop and implement an agricultural geographic database and share information between businesses, adhere to regulations, and provide a useful tool for the agriculture community.
    • ArcGIS Online Food Deserts Group Public group sharing data, maps and web apps related to food deserts. ArcGIS Online related article
  • Exploring Food Production, Access, Health, and Equity with GIS -Index of resources from Tufts University.
  • Farmers Markets Geographic Coordinates (U.S.) -USDA created Excel spreadsheet containing names, addresses and latitude and longitude coordinates for Farmers Markets in US.
  • Feeding America offers resources on researching hunger, including Map the Meal Gap, released each year showing hunger in every county.
  • FoodMapper -From Somerset UK Land and Food Project, aims to bring more land into production for community based growing projects. Captures and utilises local knowledge to map supply and demand of land for the community based production of food. FoodMapper can also be used to map all local food resources – allotments, community gardens and orchards, chicken co-ops, local food initiatives and events etc..
  • Food Systems Profile provides an overview of existing data across a broad scope of food systems activities in Wisconsin and nearby states, documenting how key indicators are changing over time, and serving as a baseline for community leaders and educators to identify opportunities for growth or expansion in regional food systems. Offers potential model for other regions.
  • Free GIS Tools Mann Library offers a list of free Geospatial Information Systems tools on its CUGIR data repository site
  • GIS Data Sources -List of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) data sources from Mann Library.
  • HealthMapper -A surveillance and mapping application, developed by WHO, that aims to address critical surveillance information needs across infectious disease programmes at national and global levels. Offers a user-friendly data management and mapping system customized specifically for public health users, providing means for visualization of data in the form of maps, tables and charts. 
  • Healthy Food Access Portal, an online gateway to information and resources for communities and policymakers working to improve access to healthy food. The portal provides resources designed to improve healthy food access in communities, build local economies, and enhance public health. Launched by The Reinvestment Fund, PolicyLink and The Food Trust
  • Landscape Production Analysis for Ventura County -Agro-ecological zone (AEZ) analysis for Ventura County, California. AEZ classifications used to describe and map alternative crop production scenarios based on variables such as climate change or groundwater depletion, and potential responses to varying levels of market demand.
  • Local Food MarketSizer -uses data from public and private sources to calculate unmet demand for local food at the state, metropolitan area and county level.
  • Local Foodshed Mapping Tool -Internet map server (IMS) for interactively exploring the capacity of agricultural land in New York State (and now Michigan) to meet the food needs of the state's population centers.
  • LocalFoodSystems.org offers a variety of useful tools for exploring and mapping local and regional food "Business Ecosystems", including Business Cluster Mapping, helping entrepreneurs work together to grow businesses rooted in agriculture.
  • Mapping Local Foodwebs Toolkit UK initiative supported by the Campaign to Support Rural England (CSRE) to engage the skills and knowledge of local people in order to research the social, economic and environmental impacts of local foodwebs.
  • Mapping Potential Local Foodsheds in New York State:
    • A Spatial Analysis of the Capacity to Produce Food Closer to the Point of Consumption -Christian Peters, Cornell University dissertation 2007 (available to Cornell patrons from Proquest dissertations and theses)
    • A Spatial Model for Evaluating the Capacity to Localize Food Production -Christian J. Peters, Nelson L. Bills, Arthur J. Lembo, Jennifer L. Wilkins, and Gary W. Fick. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 24(1); 72–84
    • Testing a complete-diet model for estimating the land resource requirements of food consumption and agricultural carrying capacity: The New York State example. Peters, C.J., J.L. Wilkins, and G.W. Fick. 2007. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 22(2): 145-153.
  • MarketMaker National partnership dedicated to the development of a comprehensive interactive data base of food industry marketing and business data. Extensive collection of searchable food industry related data. All information can be mapped and queried by the user. Available in select states, including New York.
  • Maryland Food System Map Project, based at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, helps spur improvements in the food system by helping people overcome obstacles and uncover new opportunities. The interactive online map can be used to create customized state, county, city or neighborhood maps with food system information of interest to the user. Pre-prepared analyses and data sets can also be downloaded.
  • Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory -Listing of establishments that produce meat, poultry, and/or egg products regulated by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), including slaughter facilities. Includes address and other contact information that can be used to "geocode" and map locations.
  • National Distribution Models Google Map -Created by Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) as part of distribution models for local foods project. Displays organizations across the country that aggregate and distribute local and regional foods.
  • New York State Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Clearinghouse, operated by the NYS ITS GIS Program Office, was established to disseminate information about New York's Statewide GIS Coordination Program and to provide access to the New York State GIS Data and Metadata Repository.
  • PolicyMap -Online mapping capabilities of over 10,000 indicators related to demographics, real estate, city crime rates, health, schools, housing affordability, employment, energy, and public investments. Can be used to map and download (via the Table Features tool) food related data, including Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) data. Cornell users can gain subscriber level access (while on campus) here.
  • PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity, connecting the work of people on the ground to the creation of sustainable communities. Their work includes a Improving Access to Healthy Food focus area, with data and map tools. PolicyLink collaborated with the Food Trust and Reinvestment Fund on launch of the Healthy Food Access Portal.
  • Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. Public Lab program is focused on civic science to generate knowledge and share data about community environmental health, including aerial imagery and maps.
  • Regional Foodshed Map for New York City Region
  • Reinvestment Fund offers a variety of food access related resources, including the Limited Supermarket Access analysis tool.
  • San Francisco Collaborative Food System Assessment -Extensive use of GIS to map San Francisco food system.
  • SimplyMap -A web-based mapping application that lets users quickly create professional-quality thematic maps and reports using demographic, business, and marketing data for the United States. (Cornell users only).
  • Social Explorer -Online research tool designed to provide quick and easy access to modern and historical census data and demographic information. Create fast, intuitive, and illustrative maps and reports to help visually analyze and understand demography and social change throughout history. (Cornell users only)
  • Socio-Economic and Ecological Decision (SEED) support model, developed by Ecotrust for former Vivid Picture Project, intended as an integrated, flexible, "living" GIS platform. A scenario-modeling tool for decision makers and communities for considering impacts of changes to the California food system. Designed to test for change in such things as resource availability, land use patterns, increase in population, increase in market basket, farm subsidy increases/decreases, and multiplier effects across industrial sectors and industry clusters. Communities may want to use this tool to measure what portion of their food comes from their foodshed, or to assess their progress towards the new food system in terms of the indicators.
  • SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Browser -Online soil survey data services from UC Davis, including phone apps. Can be used to access NRCS-NCSS 1:24,000 scale detailed soil survey data (SSURGO) in many parts of the lower 48 states.
  • USDA
    • Cropland Data Layer (CDL) Crop specific digital data layers, suitable for use in geographic information systems (GIS) applications. Downloadable data sets from the USDA Geospatial Data Gateway. Interactive online CropScape mapping/query tool includes ability to analyze/extract county production acreage by year and crop, and export as spreadsheet.
    • ERS Data Center -Mapping formats available on this site range from snapshot images to interactive mapping programs to downloadable data which can be imported into GIS. Includes:
      • Farm Program Atlas - Map county-level farm program and planted acreage data
      • Food Access Research Atlas: Presents a spatial overview of food access indicators for low-income and other census tracts using different measures of supermarket accessibility; provides food access data for populations within census tracts; and offers census-tract-level data on food access that can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes.
      • Food Environment Atlas -From ERS, assembles statistics on three broad categories of food environment factors: food choices, health and well-being and community characteristics. They can be queried and mapped interactively, for the US as a whole or for specific states/counties.
      • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Data System Maps - Map selected variables from time-series data on county-level estimates of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation and benefit levels
    • Food & Nutrition Service
    • Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass Map and data shows efforts supported by USDA and other federal partners, as well as related information on local and regional food systems for the years 2009-2012.
    • National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) acquires aerial imagery during the agricultural growing seasons in the continental U.S. Imagery (RGB and near-infrared) is available for download from the NRCS Geospatial Data Gateway.
    • Plant Hardiness Zone Map, available as an interactive GIS-based map. Gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. 
    • VegScape -a geospatial data service which offers automated updates of vegetative condition at daily, weekly, and biweekly intervals. Enables quantification of U.S. crop conditions for exploring, visualizing, querying, and disseminating via interactive maps.
  • Using GIS Tools to Improve Agricultural Marketing and Local Food System Mapping Duncan Hilchey, Proceedings of the Fourth National Small Farm Conference October 16 - 19, 2005
  • Vermont Food System Atlas features thousands of food system resources, including stories, videos, job listings, data, a searchable map, and all sections of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. The Atlas is also the communications and coordination platform for the Farm to Plate Network responsible for implementing the strategies of the Plan.
  • Vineyard Site Evaluation System-Resources for grape growers, including a interactive web mapping application for site evaluation.

Information & Communication Technology Tools & Strategies

Information and communications technology (ICT) is increasingly being used to inform, connect and empower food systems stakeholders, and to support sustainable and resilent farms and communities. This guide and the resources listed within constitute one example of this approach. Here are a few resources articulating the range and relevance of their application more explicitly.

  • Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation -A free eBook, examining what is needed to build an ecosystem in which "open data" can drive more effective decision-making and efficient service delivery, spur economic activity, and empower citizens to take an active role in improving their own communities (and food systems).
  • Bringing Broadband to Rural America -Choices magazine thematic issue highlighting the importance of broadband internet in helping rural communities participate in the knowledge economy (including many of the food initiatives listed in this section). Outlines ways higher education and Extension can play a key role realizing its potential by working with rural entrepreneurs and regional development organizations. 
  • CARES (the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems) offers several online resources for using web technologies to better understand human, natural resource, and environmental issues and problems. This includes:
    • Community Issues Management (CIM), a web‐based system designed for local and regional organizations to frame, manage and take action on complex issues. CIM can be employed as a tool for use within organizations and as a tool for community engagement to foster participation in transparent, data‐informed and collaborative decision-making.
  • Pod Knowledge Exchange -A project of the Community Food Centres Canada, where users can share ideas, tools and resources. Information is structured in the form of learning modules which may contain videos, written resources and podcasts.. Registration is required but quick and easy.
  • CommunityCommons.org -An interactive mapping, networking, and learning utility for the broad-based healthy, sustainable, and livable communities’ movement. The Commons is a democratized learning and innovation platform for: enhancing the reach and impact of currently-funded place based investments;applying an asset-based approach to help grow and sustain impact once the funding is over; supporting communities of highest burden who neither have grant financing, nor cohorts. Includes several food, agriculture and health groups.
  • CultivatingTheWeb -Examples and ways to use web and social networking sites to promote local foods. Extensive list of links and organizations
  • e-Agriculture -Global initiative to enhance sustainable agricultural development and food security by improving the use of information, communication, and associated technologies in the sector
  • Empowering Local Communities in Developing Countriesusing Mobile Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) -slideshow describing how mobile devices can help farmers and communities in developing world. One example of a Market Information System that combines internet and cellular technologies is Esoko/TradeNet
  • Food+Tech Connect -Blog about the emerging food and information technology movement. News, analysis, and discussion about the latest innovations, applications, and ventures that are changing the way food is produced, sold, and consumed.
  • Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion -Rockefeller Foundation funded report from the Institute for the Future (IFTF), vividly maps out how ICTS might assist cities over the next 10 years in “harnessing data for development and inclusion”. Five specific technologies will lay the foundation for this process—broadband connectivity, smart personal devices, open data infrastructures, public interfaces, and cloud computing.
  • Hunger Free Communities (HFC) Network provides a nationwide platform and clearinghouse for those active in local anti-hunger work to connect with one another, learn from each other’s best practices, and access resources from across the local and national anti-hunger community. Features include a vibrant blog, lively discussion forums, a map-based directory of Hunger Free Community coalitions, and an expansive resource library featuring toolkits, case studies, templates, community plans and host of other resources.
  • Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age -Knight Commission report emphasizing the importance of healthy “information ecologies” for community vibrancy, and the role information intermediaries can play in helping acquire, verify, select, and make sense of information. Recommendations include the creation of local online hubs, and building community capacity to use information.
  • Markets for Good, and initiative promoting the “upgrading or our information infrastructure” to enable better sharing and use of information in the social sector (including those working on food systems) to support more informed and coordinated decision making.
  • National e-Commerce Extension Initiative (NEEI) created by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to provide technology based education to entrepreneurs and communities through extension faculty engagement. 
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group -The mission of NESAWG is to build a more sustainable, healthy, and equitable food system for a 12 state region.
  • the irresistible fleet of bicycles-Creative blog inspiring young farmers to join an agricultural revival. From the Greenhorns.

Value Chain Solutions

  • AgSquared -Online software toolkit for farm management and planning.
  • CSAware -Software project of LocalHarvest. Offers CSA member management, customized e-commerce, box planning, and other tools.
  • Farmigo -An internet based system that allows farmers and CSAs to more easily manage and track member orders and deliveries.  The system automatically produces individual packing lists and delivery routes, and also allows farmer to track harvest yields making it easier to match capacity with CSA demand.
  • FarmsReach is working on a set of pre-market tools to help farms gain access to and better serve new customers: pricing, pack, food safety, planning, and purchasing.
  • Food Network Software -Free open-source software for local food networks: groups of farmers who pool and distribute their food to groups of customers.
  • Local Food Cooperative Software -Open source software developed by Oklahoma Food Cooperative and others for creating online exchange connecting consumers and producers.
  • LocallyGrown.net A coordinated on-line ordering system. Similar to a farmer's market, vendors can display all of their goods and set their own prices. Unlike a farmer's market, the growers usually don't harvest until after the order has been placed. The customer then picks up their order at one location.
  • Local Orb.it - Food hub "back office" system
  • Real Time Farms -A crowd-sourced online food guide providing users one location where they can learn about where their food comes from whether eating in or eating out, so they can feel confident in their food purchasing decisions. As they learn more, they can grow the site by sharing what they know to improve their communities' health and environment.
  • Regional Food Hubs Face a Growing Need for Technology -Article describing how information technology can help bridge gaps in food networks.
  • Small Farm Central -Small farm website services for direct marketing farms.
  • Top10Produce -Innovative farm traceability system.
  • Whole Chain Traceability Consortium Group focused on promoting information sharing across entire food and agricultural supply chains.

Funding Sources