Mapping local food self-sufficiency in the U.S. and the tradeoffs for food system diversity

Darren R. Bingham, Richard R. Rushforth, Bo Stevens, Benjamin L. Ruddell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The demand for ‘local food’ by U.S. consumers has grown markedly over the last several decades, accompanied by confusion over how to define local food. Is ‘local’ food defined by the location of the farm, food processing factory, distribution warehouse, or all three? Is ‘local’ food defined by geographic, political, or biophysical boundaries? Is ‘local’ solely farm-to-table or can it include factories? This study evaluates food commodity flow ‘localness’ using jurisdictional boundaries and physical distance to investigate the potential for food system transformation and the tradeoffs inherent to ‘localizing’ food production. We take a supply chain approach by making data-driven distinctions between farm-based flows of food and industrial, energy and nonfood (IENF) crops, and manufacturing/distribution flows of food and agriculturally-derived industrial inputs. We analyze the diversity, distance (a proxy for environmental impact), political boundaries, population, weight, and price (net selling value) of food commodity flows. The diversity of a community's food supply has an optimal range of zero to four-hundred miles. We find tradeoffs between food system diversity and local food sourcing, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. As communities look to improve food system resilience, they will need to balance food-miles and the other values associated with local food.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102687
JournalApplied Geography
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Food flows
  • Local food
  • Physical distance
  • Political boundaries
  • Supply chain diversity
  • Urban to rural food sourcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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