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Supporting sustainable local food systems

Photo courtesy of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Illinois has some of the most fertile soils in the country. While our farmers grow only six percent of the produce consumed in the state, they could grow much more. If we increased production of local food within metropolitan Chicago, it could create more than 5,000 jobs and generate $6.5 billion per year in economic activity. 

Over the last 10 years, demand for local food has grown 260 percent, and recent surveys show that three-quarters of Americans care that their food is grown locally. This demand has driven local produce beyond farm stands and farmers’ markets, in part due to the growing number of restaurants and chefs who pride themselves on using fresh, locally grown ingredients. Meijer, Wal-Mart, and other major retailers and restaurant chains are also committing to sell locally grown food. Despite the significant increase in demand, however, we continue to import food from other states and countries, and $26 billion in food revenue leaves our region every year.  

Metropolitan Chicago’s GO TO 2040 plan calls for us to strengthen our region’s local food systems.  The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) launched a new educational microsite and engaging video about supporting local food systems at By producing more of the food we consume locally, we keep money in the region, support local businesses, and have fresh, delicious produce to eat. CMAP believes that local governments have an important role to play in supporting local food systems, and the microsite features a series of educational resources targeted to local elected officials, planners, and economic development professionals. The microsite is also an educational resource that can be used by residents and advocates to help start conversations with local government officials on the best ways their communities can support local food systems. 

The microsite features a range of information about local food systems: what they are, current local and national trends, their benefits, supportive actions that local governments can take, and a range of resources, including a brand new two-part guide to help local governments incorporate local food in their comprehensive plans and ordinances, and a printable brochure that summarizes many of the points made in the microsite and can be distributed as an educational outreach tool. The local food video embedded below and available on the microsite showcases the importance of local food as it travels from the farm to the table. 

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