Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 661–670 | Cite as

The local food movement, public-private partnerships, and food system resiliency

  • Rebecca DunningEmail author
  • J. Dara Bloom
  • Nancy Creamer


Concentration and consolidation in production, distribution, and retailing have arguably reduced the diversity of US food supply and distribution channels, thus introducing vulnerabilities into the food system. This paper addresses the question of what can be done to make the system more resilient to shocks that can disrupt food supplies. We suggest that the interest connected to the local food movement extant in a wide-ranging set of public and private groups, as well as among a widening base of consumers, creates a unique opportunity to strengthen food system resiliency. We specifically focus on the supply and distribution systems of supermarket retailers. Supermarkets are major drivers of the modern food system, with US and global consolidation positioning grocery retailers as both oligopolistic sellers and oligopsonistic buyers of food. We discuss the opportunities and challenges to diversifying supermarket procurement and distribution through localization and suggest that such a shift can be most successful if it is facilitated by public-private partnerships to foster system-level change. We provide an example of one such public-private partnership in the context of the work of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (a collaboration between two North Carolina land grant universities) which has partnered with a regional supermarket chain to facilitate and promote the sourcing of local products. The substantive activities of the partnership—capacity-building training for growers and buyers, networking and peer-learning activities and site tours, support for MBA research teams and undergraduate internships, and piloting and subsequent evaluation of novel distributional techniques—are ones that can be enacted by researchers, instructors, and advocates in partnership with supermarkets and other food businesses to build more resilient systems of food procurement and distribution. Discussion of the project provides tangible examples of how public and private entities holding shared interests in local agriculture can partner as part of a holistic approach to diversifying and strengthening the food system.


Food system Local food Resiliency Public-private partnerships Social change Supermarkets University 



This work was supported in part by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant (no. 2013-68004-20363) of the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Dunning
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Dara Bloom
    • 2
  • Nancy Creamer
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Environmental Farming SystemsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Youth, Family, and Community SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Center for Environmental Farming SystemsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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