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Smart Growth

Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit

A Guide to Help Communities Revitalize Using Local Food Systems

Cover of Local Foods, Local Places ToolkitCities and towns across the country are undertaking new initiatives and strengthening current programs that support development and growth of local food systems while reinvesting in downtowns and existing neighborhoods. These efforts can help communities achieve multiple goals, such as:

  • Keeping food dollars within the local economy and supporting creation of new jobs in the region.
  • Diversifying the local economy and sustaining or reinvigorating a region’s agricultural heritage.
  • Increasing the vitality of a historic Main Street or an existing neighborhood, helping to attract reinvestment and growth to these areas.
  • Revitalizing already-developed areas to reap environmental benefits.
  • Reducing food insecurity and shrinking food deserts.

Nationwide, consumers are growing more interested in getting foods from producers in the same geographic region through farmers markets, community-supported agriculture, farm-to-school programs, and similar initiatives. Strong interest from communities prompted a group of federal agencies to offer assistance with a community-driven planning process that explores how to use the benefits of local foods to help revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods.

The resulting Local Foods, Local Places Program helps communities create action plans that chart a course for using local foods to help meet a broad range of community goals. The program and its predecessor, Livable Communities in Appalachia, has worked with more than 80 communities since 2014.

The Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit is meant to help communities interested in undertaking a similar process to develop their own plans for setting and achieving local food and revitalization goals. The toolkit was developed over the course of delivering the Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance and compiles best practices and lessons learned from the program. A facilitator, either from the community or hired from outside, could use this toolkit to help a community articulate its goals, engage stakeholders, and prioritize achievable actions to make progress.

The toolkit provides step-by-step instruction for planning and hosting a community workshop that produces an action plan laying out next steps for implementation. It also suggests some approaches, useful tips, and lessons in maintaining momentum, including that communities should:

  • Cultivate and support champions.
  • Find someone to own the plan.
  • Help build relationships.

The Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit (PDF) (78 pp, 3 MB, About PDF) includes links to funding opportunities and other resources plus detailed templates to help guide a community through the process. These templates are provided here as editable files so users can adapt them to their needs:

The process as outlined in this document is flexible and adaptable to individual communities’ needs and desires. As long as the end result is an action plan that reflects community members’ ambitions and inspires them to action, the workshop can be considered a success.

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.