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Go Local, But You Don’t Have To Go At It Alone

Reported by foodem.com, the online wholesale food marketplace-

The transition from global food-sourcing to local food-sourcing is significant. New infrastructure, new networks and new relationships need to be built in order for producers, distributors, and consumers to really make local food into mainstream food. It’s no small feat.

Many large feats in American history have been accomplished with a push from the state. The construction of the Hoover dam, industrial production during the world wars and development of key technologies like the internet and GPS are great examples of large feats that were successful largely because of state incentives.

Fortunately, consumers aren’t the only ones with whom food distributors can form alliances. Federal and state governments are starting to take notice of the local food revolution, and they’re trying their hand at giving the trend a boost. Let’s look at some of their initiatives here.

The Buy Local Challenge (sponsored in part by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission) is an annual contest to purchase as much local food as possible in the last week of July. Anyone is free to participate–anyone from individuals, restaurants, hospitals, universities, etc. are all welcome to compete. The BLC was originally a contest held only in Maryland, but the BLC is planning to run its July 2012 contest nationwide to promote a unified local-buying effort. If you’re a business, it may be worth considering participation in this contest, as publicity may be an added benefit; last year, hospitals that participated in the program were specially mentioned in the Baltimore Sun.

Some localities have adopted programs for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP–otherwise known as food stamps) that allow beneficiaries to make purchases at local farmers’ markets with their SNAP benefits. A regional group in New Hampshire has tried this by partnering with several local-food vendors. It may be worth checking your municipality for similar programs!

There are many more programs sponsored by federal, state, and local governments that may give you a boost. Check out a summary of them here [PDF], or head to page 35 of this report [PDF] for more in-depth coverage.

So have you found any state-sponsored programs you’ll make part of your 2012 strategy? Sound off in the comments.

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