Policies supporting local food systems


According to Erin Meier, from the University of Minnesota, there are two kinds of policies: formal policies: government organizations passing laws, and organizational policies. For instance, local food procurement can be supported by business assistance through a local policy.

How to get involved
Local food policy councils

A local food policy council tries to connect all of the aspects of a local food system from production and processing, to distribution, access, consumption, waste and everything in between. They also can encourage different sectors and actors within this food system to work together in order to address a multitude of food issues within the community. Ideally, local food policy councils work to achieve goals by passing or changing local policies, improving practices and changing market structures. Not all of these groups focus on policy change and prefer to identify as “local food coalitions” or “food systems councils.”  There are currently several formal and informal local food policy councils in Iowa.

The John Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Networks site has many resources for supporting local food policy councils.

Supporting Local Food Councils is a free professional development course from Michigan State University, designed to equip extension staff and community development professionals with the education, material resources, organizational tools and videos to support the development and sustainability of food councils.

Creating Local Food Policy Councils: A Guide for Michigan’s Communities.  Although this guide was created specifically for Michigan, it contains a lot of helpful resources and information useful for any state or region.

Federal programs and policies important to sustainable agriculture

Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs. This comprehensive, clear and interactive guide put together by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) walks readers through dozens of federal programs and policies most important to sustainable agriculture and how they can be used by farmers, ranchers and grassroots organizations nationwide.

City regulations

Land Reuse and Redevelopment: Creating Healthy Communities (2020) is a free guidebook created by the US Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides resources for creating green spaces and agricultural areas in brownfields (formerly toxic sites) in urban areas.

Municipal zoning for local foods in Iowa is a guidebook that focuses on the intersection of local foods and municipal zoning. It was written to provide Iowa city officials information and sample code language for reducing the barriers to, and/or encouraging some of the most common production and sales activities associated with urban agriculture. The toolkit was written by Andrea Vaage and Gary Taylor (Iowa State University) with funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Visit beelaws.org, the first searchable bee law website in the nation. It was published in 2015 to help Iowans know where to keep their bees legally, and contains bee laws for many Iowa cities.

Cities can play an important role in strengthening the food sector, helping to maximize its economic potential and ensure that all residents have access to fresh, healthy food.  The Wallace Center and Changing Tastes, conducting research on behalf of the City of San Francisco, developed Roadmap for City Food Sector Innovation and Investment and Roadmap Investment Evaluation Tool, based on a Program Scan and Literature Review covering more than 180 urban, regional, and national studies on local food systems, job creation, economic development, and financial risk.

The Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health integrates research, policy, education, communication and outreach activities, each with a unique focus on a particular aspect of the food system and its impact on public health.

The National Agricultural Law Center offers a comprehensive list of resources by topic called “reading rooms.” Here is the one on local food systems. The legal issues covered here are:

  • State laws and regulations such as general liability concerns, premises liability, and sale of raw milk
  • Federal laws and regulations such as the national organic program, the Federal Meat and Poultry Inspection Acts,
  • Laws related to agricultural labor, and
  • Food policy councils, as tools to set food policies at the state or local level.
Local food procurement

State Farm to School Legislative Survey from the National Farm to School Network provides state-by-state summaries of every enacted, defeated or pending farm to school-related bill from 2002-2018.

Find more information on the Farm to School Act of 2019, from the National Farm to School Network.

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