local food

  • Board Bill 52 FAQ

    FAQ about Board Bill 52


    This document was made to ensure public knowledge about the proposed bill (Board Bill No. 52). The bill has not been passed as of this post.


    Q: What does this bill change?

    A: The current law allows a maximum of four of the following animals: cats, dogs, chickens, a series of other birds, and one pot-bellied pig. Under the proposed bill, residents in any zoning district would be allowed to keep a maximum of eight fowl depending on size of one’s yard, in addition to up to four domestic animals (Section 3 Subsection D). Things that won’t change in the proposed bill include the banning of large farm animals or roosters on any residential area.

    (Fowl: chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeons, quail, and pheasants)


    Q: Are roosters allowed?

    A: No. The current law states that roosters are prohibited in the City of St. Louis and this will not change if the proposed bill passes. (Section 3 Subsection A)


    Q: Does this change how many cats and dogs I can have?

    A: No! The number of chickens one may have would not influence the number of pets allowed under the proposed bill. You will still be able to have 4 domestic animals.


    Q: What are the sanitary conditions required for keeping chickens?

    A: The Health Commissioner has the authority to outline set standards and regulations for keeping chickens that include spatial regulations and the maintenance of bugs, smell, allergens, manure, containers, and deceased chickens.


    Q: What will be the spatial guidelines for keeping chickens or rabbits?

    A: The bill sets minimum spatial requirements per chicken (Section 3 Subsection C). Each individual chicken requires four square feet of indoor space, or covered space like a coop, and ten square feet of outdoor enclosure area, an area uncovered like a cage. For example, if a city resident would like to have four chickens, the resident would need to make available a total of sixteen square feet of indoor space and forty square feet of outdoor enclosure area. The spacial requirements were decided based on the guidance of the City of St. Louis Department of Health.


    Q: If my neighbor owns chickens, how will it impact my living space or neighborhood?

    A: It is not permitted to keep chickens in residential front yards (Section 4 Subsection A). This way, birds will be out of sight for neighbors and passers-by. According to a survey research study in the Land Use Policy Journal, 87% of chicken owners had not received any complaints from their neighbors about their birds.


    Q: What about the noise and the smell?

    A: Chickens, as long as they are well-maintained and clean, do not smell any more than any other animal. As long as owners follow basic sanitation and maintenance practices, smell should not be a problem. In addition, chickens tend to be fairly quiet animals compared to barking dogs, noisy traffic, and other typical city sounds.


    Q: Who do I call if a neighbor is out of compliance?

    A: If a citizen notices a neighbor that is out of compliance with the above sanitary or spatial guidelines, you can call the City of St. Louis Department of Health as violations of this code are considered a public nuisance. Their phone number is (314) 612-5100.


    Q: What are some of the health concerns that come along with raising chickens and how will they be addressed?

    A:  Although there have been some health concerns over keeping backyard chickens, ensuring the health of chickens and their owners is simple as long as certain precautions are taken to prevent disease. In order to protect you and your birds from disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands with soap and water after handling poultry or related materials such as food and water dishes or cages. Disease can also be prevented by wearing gloves when cleaning cages and coops. Owners can prevent disease by keeping living spaces clean for chickens, monitoring for signs of sick birds, and contacting professionals for help if they believe a bird is infected. For more information and resources on disease and recommendations check out this webpage.


    Q: Why are this bill and urban agriculture valuable to St. Louis?

    A: Backyard chickens can provide a multitude of benefits for residents including fresh eggs, natural fertilizer, and pest control. In addition, increasing urban agriculture puts St. Louis on the map as a leader in developing local food systems by supporting residents in growing and/or raising food for themselves and their community.


    Q: Are other cities passing similar policies?

    A: Minneapolis, Seattle, Dallas, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, and many more cities have passed similar policies. Even Missouri’s own Kansas City and Columbia permit keeping backyard chickens.


    Q: What are the basics of keeping chickens?

    A: Keeping chickens is a fulfilling practice and involves multiple steps and preparations. This progress begins by doing your research on raising chickens, including choosing what breed of chickens are the best fit for you, deciding if you are going to obtain chicks or adults, finding the best space in your yard for them, and ensuring that this space fits the spacial requirements laid out by the City (see above for more information on spatial requirements). Once you have researched and obtained the proper infrastructure for housing chickens, they require feeding and watering, maintaining coops, managing manure and properly disposing of their waste, which is compostable. For more information on raising chickens visit this link.






  • CALL NOW: Support Board Bill 52 on Urban Chickens

    CALL NOW: Support Board Bill 52 on Urban Chickens 


    Ask your alderperson to Vote YES on Board Bill 52! 

    The City of St. Louis only allows a household to own four pets. If a person or family has two dogs and one cat, legally that household can only own one chicken. 

    Board Bill 52 will separate chickens from dogs, cats, and other pets by creating a cap on how many pets a household can own as well as how many chickens a family can own. For more information about the bill, check out our FAQ page here. To see the results of our "Growing Food in the City of St. Louis" survey, go here.

    Alderwomen Cara Spencer and Christine Ingrassia introduced the bill, which could come up for a full vote of the board of alderman after passing out of committee unanimously. Please visit the link to find your alderperson and make a call asking them to support Board Bill 52!

    The following aldermen are co-sponors of the bill, so there is no need to contact them unless you want to thank them for their support: Dan Guenther and Scott Ogilvie

    How to Make Phone Calls: 

    1. Find your Alderperson.

    Click here to find your Alderperson's contact information.

    2. Call your Alderperson.

    3. Discuss talking points with contact.

    Talking Points: Please support and pass BB52. It is time to allow for more chickens in the city because:

    • Eggs from chickens provide a nutritious, lean, local source of protein for residents.
    • Chickens are social animals and the number of chickens allowed should not be based on how many dogs and cats are already residing on a given parcel.
    • The number of chickens will be based on land available rather than a general allotment.
    • Raising chickens is beneficial from a public health and racial equity standpoint by providing access to nutrient dense foods in areas of the city that lack access to fresh and healthy foods. 
    • Optional: Personally, I would be interested in having chickens in my backyard to provide fresh eggs for my family. 


    Thank you for taking action to support accessibility to raising urban chickens and therefore helping to promote urban agriculture and local food access in the City of St. Louis!



  • Food and Farm Program

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Food & Farm Coordinator

    Why is an environmental organization working on food? 

    Our current, industrialized agriculture system threatens the quality of our water, soil, and air - all of which MCE has worked to protect for over 45 years - and has adverse impacts on the health of Missouri residents. 


    There is a massive disconnect between people and food. Our current food system is not feeding our children, supporting our communities, or ensuring the protection of our soil and water resources. Missouri is fortunate to have naturally high quality soils capable of producing an array of fruits and vegetables, yet most of our land is dedicated to growing corn and soy - crops used primarily to produce livestock feed, processed food, and ethanol. Much of the fruits and vegetables found in grocery stores comes from far away places - California, Mexico, Chile, and Canada. Our grocery store shelves are lined with cheap sugar-, salt-, and fat-laden processed foods. Federal policies make Hostess Twinkies(R) cheaper than a bag of carrots. Issues of limited food access and no true consumer choice hit home for many families in urban and rural communities across Missouri and the nation. 

    I believe it's time to back control of our food supply.Through our Food and Farm Program, MCE works to ensure that all Missourians have access to affordable, healthy food that is produced by local farmers who care for the land and are paid decent wages.

    MCE works to change the status quo of Missouri’s agriculture industry so that our farmland supports a robust, sustainable, secure, and equitable food production system that preserves the environmental integrity of our air, land, and water.


    Read more about the environmental and health effects of our current food system, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and the importance of Farm Bill - an omnibus bill that funds an array of federal programs, including programs related to corn production, school lunches, greenhouses, and farmers markets.

    2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study

    We believed that our current food system was threatening all of the resources we seek to protect at MCE, so we wanted to see how the industrialized food system is impacting our health, environment, our farmers, and our local economy here in the St. Louis region. In order to understand these local effects, we compiled data from USDA and Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES) and to produce the 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study. We found that there’s a clear link between our food, our health, and the health of our environment in the St. Louis area. Explore our Food Studypage for more information, including access to the complete abridged report and the executive summary. Read below to find the main points of the seven-chapter Food Study.

    1. The St. Louis Region Foodshed is defined as the 100-mile radius around St. Louis in which we’ve studied the relationship between environment, food, and health.
    2. The types of foods we consume and how they’re produced have plagued our area with disease and negative health consequences.
    3. Creating a more localized food production system will keep money and jobs within the St. Louis region, and empower small farmers.
    4. We have valuable land and soil resources for growing our own food in the region, but these resources need to be protected.
    5. Industrialized farming practices in the St. Louis region are reducing the diversity of crops and harming land quality.
    6. The St. Louis region has a huge investment in the livestock industry, but not an investment in healthy, safe animal farming practices.
    7. Industrialized chemical modifications are currently threatening the safety of our food, environment, and health.
    8. We need to make healthy food available on a local level to St. Louis area residents.

    People throughout Missouri and the nation are questioning our dependence on fossil-fuel based agriculture, high fat, high sugar processed foods, and a food system in which our food travels farther in a week than we do in a year. Increasingly, farmers, gardeners, chefs, consumers, health professionals, grocers, schools, hospitals, and restaurants are seeking foods that are free of chemicals, produced with respect for land, water, and wildlife, locally grown as much as possible, fresh, and that promote good health. We contribute to that effort by identifying policies to promote these aims, targeting obstacles to these aims, connecting communities creating solutions, and sharing information to help inform public decisions.

    Goals for MCE's Food and Farm Program

    1. Reduce pollution from fertilizers (manure and synthetic) and farm chemicals in order to keep waters healthy and safe.

    2. Protect and restore wetlands and floodplains to preserve the flood storage, pollutant-filtering and wildlife habitat capacities of these landforms.

    3. Promote a  healthy, sustainable food system that is independent of fossil fuels and petrochemicals, that uses water wisely, and restores and protects Missouri’s soils.
    4. Promote a food system that maintains a diversified seed stock independent of genetically modified and privately patented seeds.
    5. Promote the preservation of quality agricultural land for farm purposes rather than industrialized use.
    6. Promote strong conservation requirements so that taxpayer funded farm program benefits do not go to producers who fail to protect soil and water.
    Local Food Policy

    One way to mitigate the negative impacts of our industrialized farm system is to support local food movements. For instance, one of our current projects is researching gapsin the current food system. We are convening a multi-stakeholder group to advocate for policies and projects that can close these gaps and support a thriving healthy local food system around St. Louis. Click here to learn more about the other local food initiatives that MCE hopes to support, such as cooking demonstrations, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs. If your organization is interested in being a part of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, contact Food and Farm Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Missouri Foundation for Health Funds New Food Policy Coalition


    Contact: Melissa Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator, (314) 727-0600, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Date: December 8, 2015

    St. Louis, MO: Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) has awarded Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) a 23-month $120,000 advocacy grant to lead the new St. Louis Food Policy Coalition (STLFPC).

    Where food comes from, how it is grown, and the relationship between health and the environment are important concepts to MCE. MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott is raising awareness about the connections between agriculture, public health, and the environment. As the coordinating agency for the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, MCE will advocate for and advance policies that will address gaps in the St. Louis region’s capacity to deliver healthy, fresh, sustainable, and accessible local food, with a specific emphasis on targeting communities with limited access to such food. Missouri Foundation for Health’s policy portfolio prioritizes “increasing health equity for all Missourians,” which is something Vatterott anticipates the work of STLFPC will foster.

    After the release of MCE’s St. Louis Regional Food Study a year ago, Vatterott conducted outreach to stakeholders for the first four months of 2015, bringing groups together to develop a set of policy initiatives and collaborative projects to address the food system needs of the St. Louis region.

    “To effectively advocate for the health, environmental, social justice, and economic needs of the entire St. Louis region, it’s important to include organizations throughout the 100 mile radius of St. Louis,” Vatterott says.

    Such a group has existed in St. Louis before, the St. Louis Food Policy Council, which began in 2010 and closed in 2012. The new group formed as a coalition in contrast to the former council in order to emphasize the collaboration of new stakeholders and new priorities, such as emphasizing local production within the food system.

    Mary Bolling, Nutrition Program Associate at MU Extension and steering committee member of STLFPC explains, “Supporting our local farmers through STLFPC works to support improved health, lesson the environmental impact, and contribute to the local economy. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are most flavorful, most abundant, and least expensive. Locally grown food is often tastier and more nutrient dense because it is allowed to ripen longer due to the fact that it doesn't have to travel thousands of miles before arriving at the store.”

    For more information, see the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition webpage (www.moenvironment.org/stlfoodpolicy).



  • St. Louis Food Policy Coalition

    Saint Louis Food Policy Coalition

    After releasing the St. Louis Regional Food Study in November 2014, Missouri Coalition for the Environment sought to bring experts and passionate individuals together from diverse interest groups to address the food system needs of the Greater St. Louis area. In St. Louis, there are many great, local efforts addressing hunger, food access, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, social justice, community and economic development. The St. Louis Food Policy Coalition seeks to bridge these efforts to form a coordinated, local food system. We seek to leverage the myriad efforts underway. The work of all of these efforts will be lifted by a strong, connected local food system. Specifically, we shall work to shape public policy and influence decision makers about local food systems and their connections to concerns of health equity, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, community development, and economic development. Together, Steering Committee members shall build capacity to become a united advocacy bloc. This united advocacy bloc shall work collectively to make changethat will further the goals of all stakeholders involved.​

    Mission Statement

    Vision Statement

    To promote a thriving local food system that supports the health, community, environment, and economy of the Greater St. Louis area.

    A thriving local economy in the Greater St. Louis area where everyone has access to affordable, healthy food from local producers who are stewards of our soil, air, and water resources.

    Core Values

    Our Priorities

    • Community - Relationships, open communication, understanding, and collaboration among diverse stakeholders and between stakeholders and community members

    • Education and Empowerment - Opportunities and support for everyone in the Greater St. Louis area to improve their lives and communities

    • Equity - Geographic Access and Affordability of healthy, culturally relevant food for individuals in all socioeconomic components of the Greater St. Louis area

    • Health and Nutrition - Nutritious food, prioritizing whole foods without chemical or genetic additives

    • Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship - Local farmers and ranchers taking care of their land and policies that support sustainable land use in urban and rural communities. Based on SARE’s definition of “sustainability,” a sustainable food system must prioritize:

      • Stewardship of our region’s soil, air, and water

      • Quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities

      • Profit over the long term

      • Shorter supply chains to reduce the ecological footprint of our food system

    • Local - Production and availability of healthy food produced within a 100 mile radius of St. Louis, recognizing that supporting farmers within 150 miles will help to incorporate farms that are outside 100 mile radii of the nearby metropolitan areas, Chicago and Kansas City.

    • Economy - Businesses and individuals seeking to purchase healthy food from local farmers and ranchers, capturing more of our food dollars in the Greater St. Louis area.

    • Expand Food Hub Infrastructure 
    • Community Partnerships for Educational Events 
    • Urban Agriculture Policy 
    • Incorporate Cooking and Gardening into School Curriculum
    • Institutional Local Food Purchasing
    • Expanding SNAP Dollar Matching Programs
    Check out MCE's Interactive Local Foodshed Map! It is a great way to find local and environmentally responsible farmers in the St. Louis Regional Foodshed.

    View the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition Membership page to learn more about the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition structure and the steering committee members.

    For more information about how you or your organization can be involved in the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, contact MCE Food and Farm Coordinator, Melissa Vatterott, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 314-727-0600, ext. 11. 

  • Survey Results Indicate New Policies Needed to Support Urban Agriculture


    Date: December 13, 2017

    Contact: Melissa Vatterott, (314) 581-0561This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Survey Results Indicate New Policies Needed to Support Urban Agriculture in St. Louis City


    St. Louis, MO: Onsite sales of produce and eggs, allowing for more backyard chickens, and making it easier for city residents to purchase land for food production purposes are some of the recommended policy changes needed to enhance local agriculture according a survey by the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition. The survey was completed by 854 city residents in 75 of the city’s 79 neighborhoods. 

    “We conducted the survey to build a foundation for changing local food policy,” said Melissa Vatterott, director of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition. “It is clear there are barriers standing in the way of accessing local, nutritious food and we intend to change that.”

    Nearly 100 people surveyed said they would like to sell either their produce or eggs from a stand in their yard or community garden. Of those who indicated encountering obstacles to gardening or farming in the city, 28% reported the inability to sell produce or eggs from their home or community garden as an issue for them.

    The City of St. Louis only allows four total animals on any given lot, including dogs, cats, chickens, and rabbits. 63% of the respondents are in favor of allowing more chickens and rabbits, with another 21% wanting to learn more. 

    “Small towns and big cities are addressing food access in ways that can be repeated here in St. Louis,” said Alderwoman Cara Spencer. “The results from this survey will be valuable for the next mayor and board of alderman to support agriculture policies that are responsive to our constituents.”  

    The most popular recommendation, with 77% support, is that the city needs to make it easier for, and give preference to, residents in the City of St. Louis to purchase land for food production purposes. In addition, of those who reported encountering land use obstacles to gardening or farming, more than half reported land prices are too high for just growing food, a quarter said residential tax rates are too high for just growing food, and nearly half reported LRA’s garden lease program as an obstacle because it does not guarantee the lots will not be purchased by someone else. 

     "Urban agriculture provides numerous benefits, including improving food access, beautifying neighborhoods, and providing economic opportunities for city residents," said Vatterott. "It's a tool we can use to address some of the environmental and social injustices seen in our city and we hope the next mayor will make it a priority." 

    “In most of our projects, the community garden often becomes more than just a place to grow food for the people in the neighborhood,” said Steve Hutchison, President of Revitalization 2000 and cofounder of The Ville Collaborative. “Nutrition education, how to garden, the science of gardening, and beautification help bring hope to distressed neighborhoods.” 

    Results from the survey are being released in the aggregate, by ward, and by region (north, central, south). 

    “The Department of Health looks forward to working with Alderwoman Ingrassia, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition on the next steps to developing an urban agriculture policy that makes sense for our city,” said Melba Moore, acting director of the city’s Health Department.


    Click here to view the survey results. 


  • Survey: Growing Food in the City of St. Louis

    Growing Food in the City of St. Louis


    Thank you to all who participated in the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition's survey about growing food in the city! The survey is now closed. We were able to hear from 854 people from 75 of the city's 79 neighborhoods! Through this survey effort, we sought to learn from city residents: 1) what they and their neighbors are already growing, 2) what types of agriculture activities they would like to see in the city, and 3) how they would like those activities to be regulated. Five participants will receive a gift basket of food and farm swag from STLFPC members! We will use the survey responses to draft an urban agriculture ordinance that meets residents' needs and desires.
    We developed this survey with the assistance of Andy Bramman, a St. Louis University student, interning with MCE's Food and Farm Program this summer.

    The results are in!

    View results from the entire city here as well as the results for the neighborhoods in North CityCentral Corridor, and South City!
    See the survey results by ward below: 

    Click here to read our press release about the survey results. 

    Read articles from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and St. Louis Public Radio about the survey results. 

    Maps of the Survey Data

    Click to Zoom


    Alderwoman of the 19th Ward, a Champion for Food Access and Community Gardening

    Alderwoman Marlene Davis is committed to the issues expressed in the survey results above. Davis says, 

    "In neighborhoods with limited food access, residents must leave their neighborhood to access nutritious food. Many of these same neighborhoods have vacant lots, littering our neighborhoods with overgrown weeds and costing our taxpayers thousands to maintain. We can start to address both of these issues by organizing strategic plans for our communities, empowering residents to take back their vacant lots, put the land into productive use, and provide themselves and their neighbors with a source of healthy food."

    We thank her for her commitment to address food access and support food growing activities in the City of St. Louis!


  • Survey: Help MCE Improve the Interactive Local Foodshed Map!

    Help MCE Improve the Interactive Local Foodshed Map!


    Click here to further explore the Interactive Local Foodshed Map! 

  • Sustainable Agriculture Story Map

  • The Saint Louis Regional Food Study

    The 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study: Where food, health & the environment come together.

     100 1485

    Click here to read media release

    The goal of this St. Louis Food Study is to better understand the connections between our food, health, and environment. We hope it will serve as an advocacy tool for other individuals and groups working to improve public health, promote healthy food, build strong local food economies, and foster more sustainable farming practices. This Study was the work of Kathleen Logan Smith, former Executive Director of MCE, Melissa Vatterott, a recent graduate of Michigan State University College of Law, and a team of interns over two summers. Together, they compiled an encyclopedia's worth of publicly available data to better understand how our industrialized food system serves Missouri's people and environment.

    The goal of the Study is to provide relevant data to indivdiuals and organizations working on food, farm, & health in order to promote a more sustainable food system that benefits our human and environmental health. We have made as many of the resources as possible available below and will make the data and the full 200 page report available for a small fee soon.

    We have provided the Executive Summary and an Abridged Report here for free, along with other resources that we hope will advance advocacy efforts for a more sustainable food system. 

    Access to the complete dataset behind the Food Study is available for $20.The data is maintained in a spreadsheet and periodically updated as more information becomes available. The spreadsheet includes citations and notes about how the data was collected. 

    To sign up for e-alerts regarding MCE's developing Food & Farm Program please click here


    The Food Study

    Click the image to read the Executive Summary



    Table of Contents

    I. Prologue


    II. Acknowledgements & Dedication


    III. Introduction


    IV. Report - Abridged


    V. Fact Sheets


    VI. Full Chapters 


    VII. The County by County Data*

    Click hereto purchase access to the full data set. A login and password will be emailed to you following your purchase.


    The Missouri Coalition for the Environment is grateful for the valuable support of its many individual and foundation donors who make our work possible. Thank you.

    Lead Author: Melissa Vatterott
    Edited By: Kathleen Logan Smith, Policy Director
    Design: Suhad Karzon and Claudia Noto
    Publisher: The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, a statewide enviornmental advocacy organization working on a varity of issues that affect human and environmental health since 1969.

    Copyright © 2014 by The Missouri Coalition for the Environment

    The text may be used free of charge for the purposes of advocacy, campaigning, education, and research, provided that the source is acknowledged in full. The copyright holder requests that all such uses be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, reuse in other publications, or translation or adaptation, permission must be secured.

    For more information, contact Melissa Vatterott at (314)727-0600, ext. 111 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Missouri Coalition for the Environment
    3115 S. Grand Blvd., Ste. 650
    St. Louis, MO 63118

    (314) 727-0600

    This report would not have been possible without the help of many individuals who assisted with research, data collection, writing, and editing. First and foremost, the Saint Louis Regional Food Study would not have been possible without Megan Brock, Sally Rausch, and Sarah Saunders who were part of the Saint Louis Regional Food Study’s Research Team in the summer of 2012. Megan Brock and Sally Rausch were also co-authors of the beginning drafts of the report and made it possible for this report to encompass expansive data in articulated well-organized manner. MCE is grateful to Adam Hundelt for his contributions reviewing and researching for the report at the end of the summer of 2012.

    MCE expresses gratitude to Victoria Lubner and Michael Hundelt during the summer of 2013 for providing open ears and helping organize the discussion of historical crop production data and historical livestock production data.

    We express many thanks to Erin Moore for her contributions during the summer of 2013. Her attentive proofreading and editing of legal citations and her writing of the segment describing the format of the legal citations was invaluable. The discussion of historical crop production for both the Saint Louis Regional Foodshed and the bi-state area of Missouri and Illinois would not have been possible without Erin’s help with data collection and organization.

    Certain portions of the Food Study would not be possible without the conversations MCE had with various local experts. Thanks to Andy Ayers of Eat Here, Saint Louis for his perspective on challenges facing local food. We express our gratitude to Martha Vatterott R.D., L.D. for peer-reviewing Chapter 2 and providing information on nutrient content of fruit and vegetables and on the importance of consuming a diverse array of fresh produce. We appreciate the insight that Andrea Mayrose of Gateway Greening, Dave Thies of Thies Farms, and Jim Eckert of Eckert’s Orchards provided on small farm crop yields by providing MCE with their farms’ estimated yields.

    MCE would also like to thank the following individuals from various organizations, businesses, and government agencies who assisted in various capacities:

    Mark Abbott, Ph.D., Harris Stowe State University

    Audrey Ball

    Nina Balsam, University of Missouri Extension, Saint Louis County Program Director

    Darvin Bentlage, Angus beef producer.

    Angelique Chaverri, M.S.Ed., IMAP/IMC

    Terence Cooper, Associate Professor from the Department of Soil, Water & Climate of the University of Minnesota for use of illustration of Capability Classes by Land Type and Slope

    Jenna Davis, Communications & Design Coordinator of Gateway Greening for use of Figure 1. Photographs taken of Gateway Greening’s City Seeds Urban Farm

    Julie Fisher, for images of her chickens

    Diane Fitchner of Fitchner Farms for use of images.

    Tom Flood, Properties and Sustainability Manager of The Saint Louis Brewery for use images of Schlafly Gardenworks in Saint Louis, Missouri

    Tim Gibbons, Missouri Rural Crisis Center

    Bill Heffernan, PhD.

    Nadim Kanafani, MD

    Stephanie Kessler of Five Bistro for use of images of Five Bistro’s logo, and Roasted Beef Tenderloin

    Robert Kremer, PhDUniversity of Missouri-Columbia

    Russ Kremer, Frankenstein, Missouri, for images of his happy hogs

    Freecia W, a Flickr account holder for use of images of the mini, regular, and large size concrete cups at Ted Drewes

    David Lobbig, Curator of Environmental Life, Missouri History Museum

    Ted C. Macrae, an agricultural entomologist, for use of Images of Loess Covered Hills

    Bryan Mayhan, CARES Research Associate of the University of Missouri for use of image of Distribution of Soil Orders in Missouri 

    Ron Collman, Acting State Soil Scientist of Illinois NRCS for use of image of Distribution of Soil Orders in Illinois

    Danny McMurphy, trail volunteer of Ozark Trail Association for use of photograph of Ozark Highlands

    Amanda Morgan, Marketing & Human Resources Manager of Eckert’s Farms for use of Images of Eckert’s Orchards

    Millie Mattfeldt-Beeman,PhD., St. Louis University, Doisy College of Health Sciences, Nutrition & Dietetics,

    Christina Popp, MPH, RD, LD

    Martha Vatterott, RD, LD

    This Study is dedicated to the people of the Saint Louis region who are working to feed themselves and their neighbors, to promote healthier food, and stronger communities and who appreciate the taste of a fresh picked, ripe peach. 

    Prologue by Dr. Nadim Kanafani

    Three years ago, I led a small but dedicated team of staff on a mission to assist a local at-risk school district in their efforts to implement healthier school meals. We met with staff, parents, students, and administrators to discuss the issues involved in delivering school meals to over 2500 students, all of whom qualified for free school meals. We conducted in-depth analyses of the nutritional content of the school meals, the presence of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the processes for contracting and procuring food for the district. Most importantly, we took pictures, lots of pictures. School meals have received enormous attention in recent years, and it was not until I actually saw what children in this district were being served, that I understood why. What we saw in pictures shocked us more than any collection of numbers and facts could ever do. We simply could not understand how beautiful, growing, vibrant children could be served macaroni and cheese that looked more like yellow soup with a few noodles in it, ham and cheese “wraps” served on dried, cracking plain tortillas , or grilled cheese sandwiches with large circular blotches of unmelted butter stamped in the center of the bread. Why were 1st and 2nd graders given whole, wrinkled, spotted oranges to eat? In an era when sugar-sweetened beverages are increasingly vilified, children in this district were served orange and fruit-flavored drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup. Most of us had no idea what fried potato stars were until we saw them being served to children, often times alongside nachos or corn dogs. The use of Styrofoam trays, bowls, and plates was commonplace in most of the schools.

                       Initially, it was easy and convenient to blame the atrocious quality of food in this school district on the usual culprits: poor administrative leadership, lack of funding, and poor understanding of basic nutrition concepts and guidelines by school staff. These relatively “local” circumstances certainly play a role, but a larger picture began to emerge as we gained a greater understanding of the role that large food service companies play in providing school meals. This school district, like many others, is a microcosm of the community it serves. Struggling to control violence, academic failure, and poverty, this school district allowed their school food service quality to decline to the lowest possible standard. Few if any parents complained, and since school district administration never ate with the children, they were unaware that their school food service program was in a severe crisis of quality.   And not without consequence: In one school, we found that 40% of the boys were obese and that high blood pressure was highly correlated with this obesity.   As the data in the St. Louis Regional Food Study show, our food supply and the capacity to produce our food locally have been co-opted by large, powerful agribusiness companies. Just as certain communities in our region are more prone than others to allow their food supply to erode in quality, so too are certain school districts particularly vulnerable to the systemic and powerful influences of large corporate food service providers. Year after year, contracts for school food service, some of the most lucrative for food service providers, were renewed with absolutely no oversight and no specific provisions for ensuring quality and adherence to basic nutrition guidelines. In short, no one was watching, and no one complained. In the meantime, children ate mindlessly and most parents in this struggling district were simply happy that their children were being provided a school lunch.

                    Two months prior to the completion of our project, after the results of our efforts were widely disseminated, school district administrative leadership, including the superintendent, finally decided to travel to one of their schools and eat with the students. In personal communications to me, they voiced their shock and dismay at the practically inedible nature of their school district’s food and vowed to revamp their food service, beginning with a critical appraisal of their food service contract. What are the lessons learned from our project for our region’s efforts as a whole? What are the analogous “eye opening” processes that our region must undertake to start to fundamentally change our food culture? These are daunting and important questions. Perhaps the first step is to have a “common table” so to speak, a large scale effort to share our region’s “menu.” To do this, we need to know what our region’s food landscape is. This study provides that critical perspective on our region’s food landscape, ranging from economic challenges to agricultural practices to health outcomes. Unlike a school district, our entire region does not have one superintendent, one food producer, or a single food service contract governing our food supply. The St. Louis Regional Food study however highlights just how many stakeholders are involved in the complicated web of providing food for our region. This study has something for everyone. Whether you are a farmer, a legislator, a consumer, or a healthcare provider, the information in this study will help you bring health local food to your table.    



    “Eaters, that is, must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.”

    -“The Pleasures of Eating,” by Wendell Berry, Kentucky farmer, poet, and philosopher

    Beginning in the summer of 2012 and ending in the summer of 2013, individuals at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment in Saint Louis, Missouri conducted this Study to examine what the people of Saint Louis, Missouri and surrounding communities within a 100-mile radius[1] consume and produce in the food sector. We identified 59 counties in this circle– 32 in Illinois and 27 in Missouri – and dubbed the region our “foodshed”. We chose 100 miles as a starting place and a reasonable distance from farm to market.

     The Saint Louis Regional Food Study contains available data from the United States Census of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Economic Research Service, the University of Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES) and others to illuminate our regional food system. Please note that data from the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture and the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service considers Saint Louis City to be within Saint Louis County. Therefore, 2007 data from USDA divides the region into 58 counties while older reports divide the region’s data into 59 counties.


    The Study

    In compiling this Study we began with the people who live on this land. We looked at the Foodshed to understand how many of us live here and how we eat. We looked at existing data to provide a picture of our food system while we have also invited additional research to refine that picture and clarify specifics in our region.

    Chapter 1 focuses simply on where we live and work. Chapter 2 examines food-related health issues and food access challenges. We have been struck by the chasm between the abundance of calories and the scarcity of fiber and vitamins in our food. We eat too much of foods that are less healthy, and too few of the fruits and vegetables we need for good health. The consequences of our food choices are evident in our health.

    In Chapter 3, we ask what do we spend on food and where does that money go. We learn about how our food dollar travels. Our global food system is packed with irony: we are aware of the ease with which we can get produce from the other side of the planet and yet there are some areas within 100 miles that lack ready access to fresh produce.

    We look at our land and farms in Chapter 4 to see where our best agricultural land is and what our regional geography supports. In Chapter 5, we examine what our farmers are growing today, what they once grew, and what they might grow. This has shown us the links between what grows on our farmland and our growing waist lines. In Chapter 6, we also look at livestock raised and consumed in our region. In Chapter 7, we acknowledge the relationships upon which our health and the health of our environment depend.

    Finally, we offer Conclusions and Recommendations citing promising examples both in and outside our region.

    This Study aims to be a step in the journey to a food system that sustains our bodies, conserves our water and land, restores our ecosystems, and strengthens our economy. We have written this Study in the belief that if we nourish the land, the land can nourish our communities.

    MCE hopes that this Study is informative, useful, and motivating. We hope it encourages you to think about your health, your family’s health, your community, and our food system. We hope it gets you talking with your neighbors, family, local restaurant owners, government officials, and entrepreneurs about making the people of the Saint Louis Regional Foodshed healthier, more mindful of our food choices, more connected, and more self-sustaining. We hope it inspires you to grow and eat local food that’s good for families and for the planet.


     [1] For border counties of the “100-mile radius” region, those with more than half of their total area in the region were fully included in our study. Those counties with less than half of their total area in the region were fully excluded from the study.


    St. Louis Regional Food Study Complete Chapters






Login Form