Food system expert: Ark-La-Tex spends $2.2 billion annually on food not grown here

Jan 20, 2016

A food system expert who helps communities improve access to locally-grown food has completed a market study of the Ark-La-Tex.

LSU AgCenter extension agent Grace Peterson is based at the Red River Research Station set on 573 acres in Bossier City, including 260 acres of cropland.
Credit KATE ARCHER KENT

Ken Meter, president of Minneapolis-based Crossroads Resource Center, will present his findings Saturday on how this region can build a vibrant, sustainable local food economy.

Meter crisscrossed the Ark-La-Tex interviewing farmers in more than a dozen parishes and counties. He crunched the numbers and found this region spends $2.2 billion annually on food that’s not grown here.

“That’s a lot of money flowing out of an agricultural area to buy food when there’s quite a bit of empty land available, and quite a bit of potential for growing more food for local consumers,” Meter said.

The We Grow Together Coalition is sponsoring Meter’s visit. The coalition evolved from food system directives in the 2010 Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission master plan. LSU AgCenter extension agent Grace Peterson says the plan calls for everyone to have access to nutritious food and that regionally grown food is available in a variety of outlets.

“We all have to eat, and we all need nutritious food. But it’s going to take all of us to advocate for that,” Peterson said. “The education piece of that and understanding what are the issues around our food system -- how it can be safe, affordable and healthful -- those kinds of things every citizen needs to know.”

Meter has carried out 110 market studies in 40 states. He says he’ll propose an “eat five, buy $5” initiative. People eight five fruits and vegetables a day and purchase $5 of locally grown food a week.

“If everybody in the Ark-La-Tex region spent $5 a week buying food from some local farm it would be $303 million of new farm income. That’s about one-third of what farmers currently earn,” Meter said. “It would actually be a very small shift to make that I think would have pretty big ramifications.”

Meter’s market study presentation is set for Saturday, Jan. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Independence Stadium Skybox, Louisiana State Fairgrounds, 3301 Pershing Blvd., Shreveport. It’s free and open to the public.