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potatoesfresh picked onionsquashvariety of vegetablesstrawberries

About Local Food Systems

The term food system is used to denote all processes and infrastructure involved in growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, distributing, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food and food-related items. It also includes all the needed inputs and all generated outputs, e.g. water, technology, and food waste. 

Local food systems are networks of food production and consumption operating wholly within a limited geographic area. They reduce food transportation and increase trust and social connectedness between producers and consumers. The more direct sales structure allows for farmers and producers to make more off their produce while consumers pay similar prices as with traditional food sales. Meanwhile, reduced transportation distances means less pollution and fossil fuel dependence. The City of Phoenix defines the geographic area of its ​local food system to be Maricopa County. 

"Aside from air, food (including clean water) is the most vital resource for life on Earth. And when you look at the food systems data and 2050 projections, the future does look bleak. But humanity has more knowledge, technology, social intelligence, and human capacity than ever before—all of which can be harnessed to create a food system that nourishes all people, grows the global economy, and nurtures a thriving environment."  -The Rockefeller Foundation

food desert map of Phoenix

About Food De​serts

The term food desert refers to areas with low access to affordable and nutritious food. The blue boxes on the map to the right indicate food deserts in Phoenix, specifically, areas where residents must travel 1 or more miles to a grocery store or other supplier of fresh produce. One mile may not seem like a lot but food deserts mainly occur in low-income areas where not all residents have a vehicle, making transportation an added challenge.

Other related terms you may hear in connection with food deserts include the following:

Food swamps refer to areas where there is a prevalence of fast food and other unhealthy options that are more convenient or affordable than healthy options.

Food sovereignty refers to the right of peoples to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

Food apartheid refers to the fact that the lack of availability of healthy food disproportionately affects communities of color, and whole communities are geographically and economically isolated from healthy food options.

Arizona ​​Recycling Coalition’s Annual Award


On February 11, 2021, the City of Phoenix and Local First Arizona Foundation won an award for the Feed Phoenix Initiative from the Arizona Recycling Coalition.  The organization recognized the contribution that the Feed Phoenix Initiative has made to feeding COVID-19 impacted individuals and families in our most vulnerable communities.  

The initiative is providing food and helping to preserve small businesses and jobs.  Produce from local farmers is purchased for use in healthy, culturally appropriate meals ​​that are being prepared by local restaurants and caterers and delivered to social service organizations serving people impacted by the pandemic and living in food deserts.  To date, about 65,000 meals and nearly 3,000 CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares have been delivered by 8 farms and 45 restaurants/caterers to 17 organizations in Phoenix. ​

Learn more here: Phoenix Didn’t Just Feed the Hungry. It Saved Farms and Restaurants.

Upcoming Food System Events

The City of Phoenix, Office of Environmental Programs and Community and Economic Development departments are sponsors of the annual Arizona Food & Farm Forum 2020.  The event has been postponed due to the COVID-19 related social restrictions.  More information on rescheduled dates, can be found on Local First's good food finder.