New Jersey is #42 in the country in its commitment to local food, dropping two notches over the past year, according to the 2016 Locavore Index.
The Index ranks the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, using a variety of indicators related to local food production and consumption. It has been produced annually for five years by Strolling of the Heifers, a non-profit food advocacy organization based in Vermont.
The purpose of the Index is to stimulate efforts across the country to use more local food in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions, said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers.
Vermont ranks #1, followed by Maine, Oregon, Montana and New Hampshire, in that order. Montana is a newcomer to the top five, moving up from seventh place on the strength of strong investment of USDA Know-Your-Farmer grant funding.
Rounding out the top 10 are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
This year’s Index incorporates new data from the US Department of Agriculture on its Know Your Farmer – Know your Food grants. These were calculated on a per-capita basis for each state. Vermont, the top-ranked state, received $21.43 per person in such grants, compared to $.80 per person in NJ.
The Index also incorporates updated information on the number of farmers markets, the number of CSAs, the number of food hubs — all compared on a per-capita basis — along with the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs and the percentage of the budgets of those programs spent on local food.
The index continues to include data from the USDA’s Census of Agriculture, including data on the dollar volume of direct-to-the-public food sales by farmers, including sales at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), farm stands and online sales.
“This ranking shows how much work we have to do here in the Garden State,” said Kendrya Close, executive director of the Foodshed Alliance. “As we found in our Regional Foodshed Resiliency Plan, northern New Jersey in particular is ripe with potential for increasing production and consumption of local food.”