Is Local Over?

The Lempert Report
September 13, 2022

Phil: So Sally there's this report that comes out that says that local food that was spurred by the pandemic, the sales may be short lived. What do you think about that?

Sally: Phil, this is a great report and I think there's a lot of interesting points in it. It was published in the journal agribusiness and what they did is they looked at 1,650 participants and they asked 'em to reflect on their time during the pandemic and how willing they were to buy food locally. Now, what they were expecting was that during the pandemic, people felt a bigger sense of community, I guess, and bonding together, but they found exactly the opposite. They found exactly the opposite that they had anxiety and they had lost their sense of community. However, they were buying more local food products. So the question is why were they buying more local food products? 

Phil: And maybe it's just that, that was the only thing that was available to them during the pandemic. But you know, when I see reports like this, it really has me concerned because what we're gonna see is we're gonna see a whole bunch of people saying, "oh, local food is over". Local food is not over. What we really need to do is we really need retailers in particular to work with local producers, not only for the local community, not only for the benefits that we're gonna get from a nutrition from a health standpoint. But bottom line is what we discovered during the pandemic is relying on long haul transportation, bringing lettuce, and I've said this a million times, bringing lettuce from California to New York, that's absolutely absurd. You know, there's no way that it's affordable, we've got more food, safety problems and stuff like that. So my hope is that we look at this and it's a wake up call to the industry, whether it's a local producer, whether it's the government to help local producers with grants and with loans. And certainly with retailers to say, "we want more local". There's no question about it. 

Sally: Yes. I agree with you. They do need more support. And I think we also have to recognize that the idea of wanting to support your community and wanting to buy products that serve the planet better may be important to customers, but they can't always afford it. And, price is going to affect that choice. 

Phil: Absolutely. Absolutely.