Locally grown challenge generates almost $500,000 in pledges
Since the Virginia Food System Council issued a challenge last spring for Virginians to spend $10 a week on locally grown foods, nearly 700 households and 30 businesses have pledged almost half a million dollars per year.
“This is as much an educational and promotional effort, so even if Virginians don’t sign a pledge we’re hoping maybe they will at least think about their food choices while they shop,” said Spencer Neale, director of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. The organization is a member of the food system council and has helped promote the $10-a-week challenge. “The more local food people buy, the more it will benefit local economies.”
Also promoting the challenge are the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters. The council, which includes representatives of all sectors of Virginia’s food system including producers, distributors and consumers, considers the $10-a-week challenge a component of the Virginia Farm to Table Plan. That plan examines the Virginia farm economy from farm to plate, and identifies opportunities for regional food systems.
Many of the people participating in the challenge reported that, before taking the pledge, they spent a cumulative $1 million on Virginia-grown food annually. But 30 percent said they previously had spent less than $5 each week on locally grown foods.
“If we can create awareness of the importance of buying locally grown foods and other products, then the campaign will be a success,” Neale said.
Supporting the state’s farmers helps the overall economy. “Every $1 million in sales through local markets supports 13 jobs,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan.
The Virginia Food System Council formally began working to strengthen Virginia’s local and regional food systems in late 2007. Its mission is to help ensure that all Virginians have access to healthy, affordable food grown in the state.