A Framework for Monitoring Local and Regional Food Systems

Heather V. Davis, SIT Graduate Institute


The US food system has been experiencing gradual, yet significant, changes in recent years, with many people recognizing that conventional approaches to food systems and agriculture are not only unsustainable, but also destructive. As an alternative paradigm, the development of local food systems has been flourishing because of the benefits they bring to us: more local control over our food; supporting the local economy and entrepreneurs, healthier food options, fewer “food miles” and the associated benefits of lowered use of petroleum, stronger community connections, job creation for our rural communities, more gentle on the environment, and a more secure food system overall. Monitoring the level of health of various aspects of our food systems and the relevant trends that are occurring can bring us many benefits: allowing us to get a clear picture of our food system at present, being able to assess trends that are occurring, and, in turn, being able to identify weaknesses in the system that need to be addressed. Part I of this Capstone provides a framework for monitoring the trends in our local and regional food systems. It is my hope that this framework ‐ developed for the Hardwick, Vermont area and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom ‐ will also be useful to other communities, permitting them to make better informed policy and programmatic choices concerning the development of their local food systems. Part II applies the trend‐monitoring framework, although in an abbreviated form, to the food system in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, to illustrate the insights and benefits that such trend monitoring can provide.