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Report: Grow Local and Buy Local to Boost Illinois Economy

March 5, 2009

Springfield, IL – Despite millions of acres of productive farm land in Illinois, most of the food Illinoisans eat travels hundreds of miles to their grocery carts. According to a new report, "Local Food, Farms and Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy," Illinois producers are missing out on most of the $48 billion spent on food in the state.

The executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Lindsay Record, says one way to turn that around is by requiring state-funded cafeterias to purchase 20 percent of their total food from local farmers.

"There's this kind of automatic benefit for everyone where the farmers have a market and the people who consume the food are supporting the local economy and have access to fresh, local, healthy foods."

The report also recommends a number of steps to take by 2020, such as establishing consistent guidelines for locally produced foods, increasing consumer purchases of local foods to 10 percent of their food dollar and hiring 20,000 trainees for the state's food production system. A bill has been introduced that would carry out these measures.

Debbie Hillman with the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force says if the recommendations are implemented, farmers would earn more of the consumer food dollar.

"Because that money is staying in the state of Illinois, it will benefit the entire economy. Rather than that money going to California, or China or New Zealand, which is how our food system spends our dollars now, that money stays in state."

Hillman says it just makes simple sense: Grow local, buy local.

"The market is there because we all need to eat, so this is like a natural marriage of need, resources and economic opportunity."

The full report is available at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL