Following the production of the 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study, it became clear that changes were needed to our local food system. Through networking and partnership development, MCE identified several gaps in the food system that need filling.
- Education gap: more education about the harmful impacts of industrialized agriculture is needed for individuals to understand the benefits of locally-sourced products and reduced consumption of low-cost meats and processed foods
- Affordability and availability gaps: In many communities, it’s hard to find access to local food in neighborhood stores. Some communities have more corner stores than grocery stores; in other communities, the closest food store is 20 miles away. Additionally, for some people, affordability is more important than accessibility, and purchasing a more expensive locally-sourced product is out of the question for many households.
- Farmer-buyer connectivity gap: Many grocery stores and restaurants have high interest in sourcing their products or ingredients locally, but they often have no way to find new local farmers with whom to do business. Small farmers are focused on producing their crops and raising livestock, and don’t spend a lot of time researching new markets.
- Policy gap: Our current policies incentivize growing commodity crops such as corn and soybeans and raising livestock in CAFO’s, which are not building up healthy food systems.
From our engagement with individuals and organizations about the current gaps in our food system, and research on what other cities and states are doing, we determined that the following are the current overarching food needs of the Greater St. Louis Area:
Increase the presence of local food in larger markets (i.e. grocery stores, hospitals, schools, etc.) by connecting small-scale farmers with new markets.
Increase healthy, local food access, prioritizing underserved communities.
Increase farmer education and assistance to implement best agriculture practices that protect soil and water quality.
Educate individuals about food identification, gardening, nutrition, and cooking, prioritizing youth.
- Implement economic policies that make healthy food affordable for all while also allowing farmers who take care of their land make a living.
We found ideas and resources from the Detroit Food Policy Council and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health especially helpful.