Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 650–660 | Cite as

Regionalism: a New England recipe for a resilient food system

  • Kathryn Z. RuhfEmail author


Regionalism is a framework for economic, policy, and program development that responds to regional characteristics, differences, and needs and encourages regional approaches and solutions. This paper suggests that acting regionally contributes to food system resilience. The author discusses attributes of regionalism and regional food systems and how they build capacity to withstand disruptions in the food system. Food system resilience entails reducing vulnerability to risks of disruption to the food supply and increasing capacity to withstand or adapt to such disruption. Regions are an effective scale to promote resilience through enhanced diversity, stability, and flexibility, appropriately scaled supply chains and infrastructure, and strong foundational relationships. These attributes are important to resilience in that they decrease dependence on “external” variables, such as long-distance transport of foods, and increase “internal” capacity to provide for the region and withstand natural and manmade disruptions. The region is a powerful scale to respond to disruption in that it addresses supply (volume and diversity) better than local; is more nimble and flexible than nationally and globally sourced food (even accounting for global supply chain “substitution”); and effectively fosters relationships, communication, and trust which are foundational for responding to change (disruption). This paper focuses on the New England region whose six states have a history of working together. It is also a region that exemplifies an area’s ability to respond to disruption based on real and felt interconnectedness of rural and urban interests. As such, it is an ideal learning laboratory for applying regional approaches to food system resilience, approaches that can be of use elsewhere both nationally and internationally. The paper describes several initiatives in New England that exemplify regional thinking applied to food systems and how such thinking can foster resilience. Initiatives focusing on regionally focused food supply chains, increased regional production, access to farmland, and food system public policies illustrate how the government, the civil society, and the private sector can collaborate to strengthen food resilience.


Regional food system Local food system Regionalism Food system resilience 



Thanks to Peter Allison, Farm to Institution New England, and Joanne Burke, University of New Hampshire and Food Solutions New England. Thanks to these NESAWG funders for supporting this work: John Merck Fund, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, New World Foundation, and Lawson Valentine Foundation.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working GroupIrvingtonUSA

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