Report, recommendations are steps in making Nebraska more food secure

More than $4.4 billion is spent annually on food in Nebraska, with only 10 percent expended on products grown and processed in the state, according to a report recently released by the Center for Rural Affairs and the Nebraska Food Council.

“Biting Into Food Access: A View of Nebraska’s Food System” provides background research describing the current food system in the state, taking a look at state-level and national-level data.

“When we spend food dollars outside of the state, that weakens our local economy and limits local access points,” said Sandra Renner, project associate with the Center for Rural Affairs and co-author of the report. “We rely on other areas of the country, the strength of their food systems and local economies, and the availability of their natural resources to provide us with food. The idea that we are ‘feeding the world’ ignores the unsustainability of our current food system.”

The report examines demographics, food production and land use, food consumption and access, and food waste.

The final section of the report zooms in on next steps for the newly-formed Nebraska Food Council. Members of the Nebraska Food Council reviewed the research in this assessment and created an initial list of research topics, policy work, and areas of focus they would like to pursue.

“We’re looking at how to better feed our population and how to shift toward creating opportunities for more food production aimed at human consumption,” Renner said. “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.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Nebraska agriculture has become more concentrated over time.
  • Very little farmland in Nebraska is used for fruit and vegetable production so these items are imported. The state lacks readily accessible vegetable and fruit processing locations.
  • Nationally, the state is first in beef and veal exports. Local communities are not always able to access Nebraska beef in local stores.
  • During the 2017 to 2018 school year, Nebraska Farm to School reported $2.7 million in total local food purchases. Products included melons, various vegetables, chicken, and milk.
  • 1,300 Nebraska farms sell directly to consumers with sales of $5.9 million, contributing 0.04 percent of the farm product sales in the state.

For more information and to view “Biting Into Food Access: A View of Nebraska’s Food System,” visit cfra.org/publications/BitingIntoFoodAccess.

Feature photo: In a recent report, the Center for Rural Affairs found 1,300 Nebraska farms sell directly to consumers with sales of $5.9 million, contributing 0.04 percent of the farm product sales in the state. Here, food is grown for a local restaurant. | Photo by Kylie Kai