- The professed economic benefits of local food systems for communities and small farmers, along with mounting recognition of the contribution of current food production practices to global climate changes has sparked growing excitement around local foods. Additionally, the growth of industrial food systems and government subsidization of corn and soy in the United States has made highly processed, energy-dense foods readily available and inexpensive. Growing awareness of the impacts of a diet of highly processed foods on health, including increasing diabetes and obesity rates, along with recent food safety scares, have encouraged an increased popularity of eating “fresh, local” food in the last two decades. Local food is also becoming seen as a way to increase access to healthy foods for low-income populations. As a result of these drivers, a new wave of social activism surrounding food issues has emerged. Social food movements advocating for improved community access to locally produced, healthful foods and the ideas of food justice and community food sovereignty have grown in recent years, however, low-income populations are often left out of these movements.
This paper aims to understand involvement of food banks in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington in local food movements and the barriers to participation, as well as to examine if and how food banks are connecting and collaborating with other organizations and government agencies to support local food initiatives, promote policy change, and bring the benefits of local food to low-income populations. It concludes that food banks are a crucial part of the larger food system and efforts to create a more equitable food system through taking care of immediate needs and lending support to local food movements through policy advocacy.