Biting into food access

Small Towns

By addressing key issues in food, farm, small business, and community-level and institutional policy, there is potential to identify strengths, changes needed, and gaps in the food system.

Good food policy and effective coordination between food system stakeholders will produce strong farms, open new or existing markets that are difficult to access, cultivate a resilient food economy, and preserve a healthy future for all rural Americans.

A food system is a large and complex structure that contains many smaller, overlapping systems. A lot of discussion has been held about how best to define “local” in “local food.” Similarly, as communities begin to think about their local foodsheds, or the physical geography required to feed a given population, the boundaries and definitions of those foodsheds may vary and overlap.

In our newest report, we took a look at the overall food system in our home state. In Nebraska, more than $4.4 billion is spent annually on food and 90 percent of that comes from outside of the state. The food system is reliant on other areas of the country, the strength of their food systems and local economies, and the availability of their natural resources to feed its population. 

We discuss demographics, agricultural production, consumption and access, and food waste patterns. Across the country, you may find similarities in your own food systems and we hope you'll be inspired to take a look at the food landscape of your communities.