However, these definitions seem very reasonable for the term local. Of course, defining local as “within the same state” is a kind of common-sense definition that is obviously more useful in smaller, East Coast states, whereas defining “local” within a certain mile-radius leaves less room for debate. Kroger’s definition sounds the most vague, but it also has many different subsidiary chains. It should also be noted that although this list is not comprehensive, some grocery stores could not be included because they do not have a local produce policy whatsoever, such as Aldi and Target.
Once I began researching definitions and talking to grocery store representatives, I quickly became very aware of the challenges facing store managers that wish to stock their shelves with local produce. “Customers have grown to expect products year-round,” explains Maria Brous, the Director of Media & Community Relations for Publix. She explains that Publix strives to stock produce from their five states of operation first, but that this simply isn’t always possible while also providing customers with a diversity of fresh produce. “Product is not available year-round in the same place, and sometimes product is not available in a certain area at all.”
Even the grocery stores that are the most dedicated to locally grown produce find it challenging to source exclusively from local farms. Ellwood’s Thompson’s Market, an independent grocery store in Richmond, Virginia, works to buy their produce from within a 100-mile radius of the store. “Eighty percent of our greens and things might be local for two weeks,” say Paige Bishop. “But then all of a sudden they’re sold out of that crop and then we’re sourcing some things organically instead of locally.”
Although local produce may only represent a fraction of the nation’s grocery purchases, benefit to the local economies can be significant. Independent We Stand, a movement of small business owners who support buying local, has calculated that if every family in Wichita, KS spent $10.00 at a local business, over $19,000,000 would be re-invested into the local economy (learn more about their economic impact calculator). “The more that you buy local, the more that money is going back into the community,” says Bishop.