Skip to main content Accessibility help

The potential of local food systems in North America: A review of foodshed analyses

  • M. Horst (a1) and B. Gaolach (a2)


Foodshed analysis provides a way to assess the capacity of regions to feed themselves. While dozens of foodshed analyses have been completed across North America, they have not been systematically analyzed. This paper reviews 22 foodshed analyses completed in the USA and Canada between 2000 and 2013. The criteria used to evaluate the foodshed studies are authorship/type of publication, spatial extent, goals and questions, methods and data sources for assessing consumption and production, analysis of pathways from production to consumption and findings. Similarities and differences, along with strengths and weaknesses, are identified. Together, the foodshed studies indicate significant opportunity for food system relocalization across North America. Foodshed studies are a potentially powerful tool for policy analysis and planning. A future research agenda for foodshed studies is identified, including addressing data gaps and establishing more standardized models for evaluating production, consumption and pathways.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author:


Hide All
1 Brinkley, C. 2013. Avenues into food planning: a review of scholarly food system research. International Planning Studies 182:243266.
2 Hedden, W. 1929. How Great Cities are Fed. D.C. Heath and Company, Boston.
3 Getz, A. 1991. Urban foodsheds. The Permaculture Activist 24:2627.
4 Kloppenburg, J. Jr, Hendrickson, J., and Stevenson, G.W. 1996. Coming in to the foodshed. Agriculture and Human Values 133:3342.
5 Atkins, P.J. 2007. A tale of two cities: a comparison of food supply in London and Paris in the 1850s. In Atkins, P.J., Lummel, P. and Oddy, D.J. (eds). Food and the City in Europe Since 1800. Ashgate, Aldershot, England. p. 2538.
6 Billen, G. 2011. Grain, meat and vegetables to feed Paris: where did and do they come from? Localising Paris food supply areas from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. Regional Environmental Change 122:325335.
7 Wright, J. 2012. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in an Era of Oil Scarcity: Lessons from Cuba. Routledge, New York.
8 American Farmland Trust. (no date). Fresh food grown on the urban fringe. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
9 Pirog, R. and Benjamin, A. 2003. Checking the food odometer: Comparing food miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions. Report prepared for Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
10 Peters, C., Bills, N., and Fick, G. 2008. Foodshed analysis and its relevance to sustainability. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 24:17.
11 Desjardins, E., MacRae, R., and Schumilas, T. 2010. Linking future population food requirements for health with local production in Waterloo Region, Canada. Agriculture and Human Values 27(2):129140.
12 Feenstra, G. 2002. Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field. Agriculture and Human Values 19(2):99106.
13 Born, B. and Purcell, M. 2007. Avoiding the local trap scale and food systems in planning research. Journal of Planning Education and Research 26(2):195207.
14 Duram, L. and Oberholtzer, L. 2010. A geographic approach to place and natural resource use in local food systems. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 25(2):99108.
15 Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science and Technology 42(10):35083513.
16 Ackerman-Leist, P. 2013. Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont.
17 Peters, C.J., Bills, N.L., Lembo, A.J., Wilkins, J.L., and Fick, G.W. 2009. Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State: a spatial model for evaluating the capacity to localize food production. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 241:125137.
18 Hoffmann, W. 2011. Western Catskill Region foodshed research and analysis. Report for Catskill Mountainkeeper.
19 Colasanti, K.A. and Hamm, M.W. 2010. Assessing the local food supply capacity of Detroit, Michigan. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 1(2):4158.
20 MacRae, R., Nasr, J., Kuhns, J., Baker, L., Christianson, R., Danyluk, M., Snider, A., Gallant, E., Kaill-Vinish, P., Michalak, M., Oswald, J., Patel, S., and Wekerle, G. 2012. Could Toronto provide 10% of its fresh vegetable requirement from within its own boundaries? Part II, Policy supports and program design. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 22:147169.
21 Scenic Hudson. 2013. Securing fresh, local food for New York City and the Hudson valley. A foodshed conservation plan for the region. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
22 Delaware Regional Valley Planning Commission. 2010. Greater Philadelphia regional food system study. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
23 Food Solutions New England. (no date). New England Food Vision. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
24 American Farmland Trust. 2008. San Francisco Foodshed Report. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
25 Western Washington foodshed study. 2012. Produced by University of Washington studio class for American Farmland Trust. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
26 Peters, C.J., Bills, N.L., Lembo, A.J., Wilkins, J.L., and Fick, G.W. 2012. Mapping potential foodsheds in New York state by food group: An approach for prioritizing which foods to grow locally. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 27(2):125137.
27 Cultivating resilience: The Shelburne Falls food security plan. 2009. Report prepared for the Central Connecticut River Institute and the Apios Institute. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
28 British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. 2006. B.C.'s food self-reliance: Can B.C.'s farmers feed our growing population? Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
29 Kantor, L.S. 1998. A Dietary Assessment of the US Food Supply: Comparing Per Capita Food Consumption with Food Guide Pyramid Serving Recommendations. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC.
30 Wells, H.F. and Buzby, J.C. 2008. Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in US Food Consumption, 1970–2005. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC.
31 Elizres, E. and Lane, E. 2012. Franklin County farmland and foodshed study. Report prepared for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
32 Giombolini, K.J., Chambers, K.J., Schlegel, S.A., and Dunne, J.B. 2011. Testing the local reality: does the Willamette Valley growing region produce enough to meet the needs of the local population? A comparison of agriculture production and recommended dietary requirements. Agriculture and Human Values 28(2):247262.
33 Mertens, M. and Silverman, H. 2007. Landscape production analysis for Ventura County: A preliminary summary for the Ag Futures Alliance and Ag Innovations Network. Report produced for Ecotrust. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
34 Mendes, W., Balmer, K., Kaethler, T., and Rhoads, A. 2008. Using land inventories to plan for urban agriculture: experiences from Portland and Vancouver. Journal of the American Planning Association 744:435449.
35 Kremer, P. and DeLiberty, T.L. 2011. Local food practices and growing potential: Mapping the case of Philadelphia. Applied Geography 31(4):12521261.
36 Blum-Evitts, S. 2009. Designing a foodshed assessment model: Guidance for local and regional planners in understanding local farm capacity in comparison to local food needs. Masters thesis, University of Massachusetts. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
37 McClintock, N., Cooper, J., and Khandeshi, S. 2013. Assessing the potential contribution of vacant land to urban vegetable production and consumption in Oakland, California. Landscape and Urban Planning 111:4658.
38 Hu, G., Wang, L., Arendt, S. W., and Boeckenstedt, R. 2011. An optimization approach to assessing the self-sustainability potential of food demand in the Midwestern United States. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 2(1):195207.
39 Forkes, J. 2011. Measuring the shape and size of the foodshed. Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
40 Puget Sound Regional Council. 2013. Local food procurement policies. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
41 University of Minnesota Extension. 2013. Western Lake Superior food assessment research results. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).
42 Institute for Food and Development Policy. 2009. Food policy councils: Lessons learned. Available at Web site (accessed April 30, 2014).



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed