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Top Local Foods Stories of 2014

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2014 was an impressive year for local food. Direct-to-consumer markets (CSAs, farmers' markets, food buying clubs, etc.) are all on the rise to meet the growing demand for sustainably-grown, local food. More and more restaurants and grocery stores are making commitments to buy local food. This is great news for human health, animal well being and for the overall health of the planet.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Here's a list of the top five local food stories of 2014:

1. Vermont Leads U.S. States

For the third year in a row, Strolling of the Heifers ranked all 50 U.S. states and Washington DC using its Locavore Index. The rankings take the per-capita number of farmers markets, consumer-supported agriculture operations (CSAs) and food hubs into account, along with the percentage of school districts with active farm-to-school programs.

Vermont ranks at the top of the list for the third year in a row. Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Hawaii round out the top five. See how all the other states and Washington, DC stack up here.

2. One City is Eliminating Carbon and Restoring the Local Food Economy

The city of Oberlin, home to Oberlin College, is a northwestern Ohio community with nearly 9,000 residents and 3,000 college students. The Oberlin Project is a joint effort of the city, the college, and private and institutional partners to improve the resilience, prosperity and sustainability of the community.

The project, which launched in the summer of 2009, is revitalizing the local economy; eliminating carbon emissions; restoring local agriculture, food supply and forestry; and creating a new, sustainable base for economic and community development. The project is spearheaded by David Orr, a visionary Oberlin professor.

Oberlin and Oberlin College are global leaders in sustainability. Oberlin is one of 18 Clinton Foundation Climate Positive Development Program cities (one of only three in the U.S.) that have committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions below zero.

The city is on target to reduce its emissions by 50 percent of 2007 levels by 2015, with 90 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources. To compliment those goals, the Climate Action Committee, a community-based group created by Oberlin City Council, developed a 2013 Climate Action Plan as a roadmap for transitioning to a climate positive community.

3. Newcastle Hopes to Become World's First Sustainable Fish City

Newcastle, England has made impressive strides to try to claim the title of “World’s First Sustainable Fish City.” Last year, Food Newcastle launched its Food Charter, a plan to make the city more sustainable, healthy and active in its food policy. The program encourages citizens to sign the charter and pledge to make a difference, big or small, in Newcastle’s food culture.

The Newcastle University has signed a Sustainable Fish Pledge, declaring that they will only serve sustainable seafood. Newcastle is one of six cities in the UK chosen in the first round of “Sustainable Food Cities” to receive funding to attain these goals.

4. Calgary Wants 100 Percent Sustainable Food by 2036

A “city-led, community-owned initiative” Calgary EATS! in the province of Alberta, Canada has laid out a plan to become a more sustainable food city. By 2036, they want to increase consumption of local food to 30 percent, have 100 percent of the city’s food supply be a product of sustainable practices and bring urban food production up to five percent. These targets were set based on feedback from Calgary citizens who saw food sustainability initiatives as some of the most important for their city.

Watch to see how they're doing it:

5. Study Confirms Local Food Grows Local Economies

A team of economists set out to explore if buying locally really makes a difference in the study Linkages Between Community-Focused Agriculture, Farm Sales and Regional Growth, published in Economic Development Quarterly.

Their results revealed that yes, direct farm-to-customer-sales in the form of farmers’ markets and farm visits do make a difference–but what kind of difference depends where the farms are located and on how well local communities have built up a supply chain to support this kind of local buying. Read more about the findings here.

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