Florida food study sheds light on local food purchasing

Local foods bring dollars and jobs into local economies.

The push for local food has risen and the call for more farmers markets to promote an increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables for better health. How do we know if people are choosing to change their buying habits? You ask them!

Florida researchers have found that a majority of Florida residents purchase local food. In fact, consumers spent over $8 billion on local food or $1114 per household at Farmers Markets and U Picks, retail grocery stores and restaurants. But how do we know this? These researchers surveyed 7500 random households in Florida and asked them many questions about their purchasing habits.

Florida researcher Alan Hodges and his team sent a survey in the mail to 7500 randomly selected households and asked them a series of questions about their local fruit and vegetable buying habits. They had over 20 percent of the households respond to their survey, a higher percentage than average surveys. The researchers asked questions to measure annual food purchases, the top 12 foods purchased, the local food market channels people chose to shop at, the estimated annual expenditures and public attitudes and perceived barriers to purchasing local food.

When asked what their definition of local food was, the top response was within 100 miles of where they lived. Sixty-two percent of respondents purchased food from farmers markets, roadside stands and U pick farms. Almost half of the respondents also reported buying local food from retail grocery stores.

The reasons people chose to shop for local food were freshness, food safety, nutrition and price.

The researchers found that local foods represented 20 percent of total purchases by Florida residents. Most people are purchasing local fruits and vegetables but animal products like meat, eggs, dairy and honey were also popular.

The study concluded that local food brings over $8 billion dollars into the state’s economy along with more than 180,000 jobs that are attributed to local food production. Michigan State University Extension helps support the initiative for buying local food, because Michigan is in a good position to benefit from these economic benefits.

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