The Iowa Regional Foods System Working Group (RFSWG) is comprised of practitioners and community leaders from more than 25 groups that meet quarterly to build more vibrant regional food systems. The group was convened in 2003 by the Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative as part of the Value Chain Partnerships program.
The goals of RFSWG
- Identify the key elements found in specific geographic areas that create a vibrant and sustainable regional food system.
- Work with leaders and food businesses in specific geographic areas and/or communities to identify and support the key elements that are not yet well developed.
- Help identify and measure key indicators that determine whether there is positive change in the regional food system as a result of projects or programs.
- Develop and implement a process for continuous learning across Iowa about what it takes to make a regional food system more vibrant and sustainable.
Regional Food Partnerships and Coalitions
- Flavors of Northwest Iowa: Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Monona, O’brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties
- Healthy Harvest of North Iowa: Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright counties
- Northeast Iowa Buy Fresh, Buy Local: Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties
- Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness: Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties
- Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership: Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties
- Field to Family Food Coalition: Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington counties
- Dubuque Eats Well: Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties
- Quad Cities Food Hub:Clinton, Muscatine and Scott counties
- South Central Iowa Area Partnership: Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Madison, Monroe, Union, Warren and Wayne counties
- Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative: Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties
- Southwest Iowa Food and Farm Initiative: Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby counties.
- Eat Greater Des Moines: Dallas, Marion and Polk counties
- Central Iowa RFSWG: Boone, Hardin and Story counties, and managed through Prairie Rivers of Iowa
- Greene County Local Foods Working Group: Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties
- Harvest from the Heart: Marshall county
- Funding Impact Brief: The Regional Foods Systems Working Group (RFSWG)
- Best Practices of the Regional Food Systems Working Group
- RFSWG overview poster [PDF] Feb 2011
- RFSWG Data Collection Guide A shared measurement system for collecting economic data Feb 2013
- The Current State of Regional Food System Work in Iowa March 2012
- Creating Change in the Food System: The Role of Regional Food Networks in Iowa [PDF] a report about the collective impact of RFSWG March 2012
- Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan
- Learning about Local: A Resource Guide to Iowa Organizations and Programs Supporting Local and Regional Food Systems
Food system assessments
The Leopold Center has completed food system assessments using several approaches including food mapping, community discussions, historical data and trends. A sampling of different assessments are listed below:
- The first Leopold Center white paper Apples to Apples explored the Iowa apple industry.
- The Leopold Center's white paper Grape Expectations looked at opportunities to re-establish the grape industry in Iowa.
- Iowa Ag Snapshot shows how the number of crop and livestock enterprises has declined on Iowa farms each year since 1920.
- A Resource Guide to Cultivate the Linn County Local Food System A project of the Regional Food Systems Working Group
- ISU sociologist Clare Hinrichs worked in four Iowa counties in 2002 to find out how people ate, where their food came from, how the land was used, and opportunities for local marketing, resulting in these reports:
A number of Leopold Center grants and in-house projects provide valuable information in establishing new markets:
- Funding Opportunities in Local Foods looks at grant programs offered by federal, state and private organizations for development of local food systems.
- Starting an Online Local Food Co-op a case study of the Iowa Valley Food Co-op and how this project evolved.
- Is Local Food More Expensive? A report that compared prices for Iowa-grown vegetables, eggs and meat with non-local counterparts.
- Northeast Iowa Local Food Survey Report summarizes results of a 2007 survey of 140 institutional buyers about their purchases of locally raised food items.
- The United States Pork Niche Market Phenomenon peer-reviewed paper in American Society of Animal Science. This research was done for the Pork Niche Market Working Group.
- Examining Awareness of and Support of Regional Food Systems in Iowa An early study for the Regional Food Systems Working Group that looked at public understanding of terms, 2005
- Ecolabel Value Assessment: Consumer and Food Business Perceptions of Local Foods first of two studies conducted by the Leopold Center, 2003, and
- Ecolabel Value Assessment Phase II follow-up report, 2004
- Consumer Perceptions of Pasture-raised Beef and Dairy Products an in-house Leopold Center study done in 2004
- Investigation of Strategic Partnership Opportunities with Iowa Convenience Store Retailers
Place-based foods and agritourism
Unique foods have always attracted followers, one of the basic concepts behind agritourism. The Leopold Center has funded projects and conducted research to help Iowa farmers expand markets.
- Consumer Perceptions of Place-Based Foods, Food Chain Profit Distribution and Family Farms
- Muscatine Melon: A Case Study of a Place-based Food in Iowa
- A Geography of Taste: Iowa's Potential for Developing Place-based and Traditional Foods looks at Iowa's history, regional influences and an array of foods once prevalent here.
- Food Pantry Produce Donations ISU Extension and Outreach publication PM 1974E
- Iowa Farm to School Program Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
- Iowa Farm to School Toolkit This website shares what's happening at the 23 Iowa Farm to School chapters
- Iowa MarketMaker An interactive website where farmers can register their business to find markets in their area. It was originally developed in Illinois and expanded to Iowa with a Leopold Center grant. The database now includes 17 states and a variety of other marketing resources.