How the Local Food System Is Structured

A food system is defined as the process through which the food that ends up on your plate is produced and what happens to it once it’s consumed or discarded. There are two different types of food systems: local and global. Although similar in structure, the main differences between the two are scale and length of time from beginning to end. As a food co-op, we believe our local food system is the most sustainable way to keep our community fed, so our focus is on continuing to grow the one that already exists in the Chippewa Valley.

Within all local food systems, there are seven main sectors:

1. PRODUCTION: This sector includes local produce and meat farms, commercial fishing, community gardens, and other producers.

2. DISTRIBUTION: This sector involves the transportation of food from the local producer to the processor or retailer.

3. PROCESSING: This sector includes value-added food products that are made in a processing facility using ingredients from local producers before making their way to market.

4. MARKETING: This sector involves raising awareness of local food products through the use of branding and packaging.

5. PURCHASING: This sector involves the stocking and selling of local food products at brick-and-mortar retailers and farmer’s markets or via websites and apps.

6. CONSUMPTION: This sector involves the preparing and consuming of food after it’s been purchased, whether at home or at a restaurant.

7. RECOVERY: This sector includes food rescue, composting, and other creative ways of using food before it spoils. These processes then aid in the production of more local food.

Our co-op primarily lands in the Purchasing sector of the local food system because our main purpose is stocking and selling groceries to our shoppers. But many of our products and services land in other sectors, too. For example, ingredients from local farms in the Production sector are frequently delivered to our Deli through the Distribution sector; our Deli Team then uses those ingredients to make value-added meals and packages them to be sold in-store and online. That work takes place in the Processing and Marketing sectors when they prepare grab-and-go products, and also in the Consumption sector when preparing ready-to-eat products that will be consumed by shoppers on-site that same day. As we grow, we hope to expand our reach into the Distribution and Recovery sectors as well by picking up deliveries from local farms and transporting them to our store, and by working on better recycling and composting solutions. The more we work together with our local suppliers and keep our dollars within our community, the stronger our local food system will become.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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