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Local Food Distribution Models

There are numerous distribution models that move food from producers and processors to consumers. They include large chain grocery stores to farm gate and everything in between. Here are some research findings related to distribution and sustainable outcomes:


Transportation of food from the producer to the food purchaser uses fossil fuels. This releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other pollutants that contribute to global climate change, acid rain, smog, and local air pollution.

By reducing “food miles”, you can reduce environmental damage. However, some recent studies indicate that transportation of small shipments between "local" farms and the market can actually increase oil consumption.

A better measure is the "energy per calorie of food being transported", which can be minimized by optimizing the local and regional distribution system.

Health & Nutrition

There is a difference in nutritional value between produce that can be picked and eaten the same day, and produce that is picked before it is ripe and transported hundreds or thousands of miles. Imported produce can have lower levels of vitamins. Freshly picked fruit and vegetables contain maximum nutrients.

In addition, food that is transported long distances is often preserved with wax, irradiation, gases and synthetic chemicals, such as fungicides and sprout inhibitors.


Social and cultural aspects of food are based on personal consumer preferences. Meeting farmers, hearing about how their produce is grown and connecting with people of similar interests can be enjoyable and contribute towards the development of communities that are caring, connected and food secure.

Food Distribution Challenges and Aspirations

Current local food distribution is dominated by direct selling to niche buyers and limited wholesale. It is expensive and time consuming for individual farmers to sell and transport product. Many farmers indicate a lack of marketing, sales and distribution skills.

Producers indicate a desire to capture the intermediaries’ share of the profit. Food purchasers are interested in all types of local primary and processed food. Local aggregated distribution models have received broad based support. Here are some examples:

Alternative Distribution Models
  • Online/Managed Listing  & Logistical Coordination
  • Marketing Co-ordination
  • Marketing Coordination and Aggregation Facility
  • Marketing and Logistical Coordination
 Desired Business Ownership Models
  • Non-Profit
  • B-Corporation
  • Vertical Cooperative
  • Public – Private Partnership