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ABSTRACT. A potential solution for weakened rural economies is the development of local food systems, which include affordable foods sources for consumers and economically feasible structures for producers. Local food systems are purported to promote sustainability, improve local economies, increase access to healthy foods, and improve the local diets. Four entrepreneurial food systems innovations that support local economies include farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, farm to institution programs and food hubs. We review current literature to determine whether innovations for aggregation, processing, distribution and marketing in local food systems: 1) enable producers to make a living; 2) improve local economies; 3) provide local residents with greater access to affordable, healthy food; and 4) contribute to greater consumption of healthy food among residents. While there is some evidence for each, more transdisciplinary research is needed to determine whether entrepreneurial food systems innovations provide economic and public health benefits. pp. 3–16

Keywords: entrepreneurial food systems innovations; economic development; rural health; public health nutrition; farmers’ market; community supported agriculture (CSA); farm to institution; food hub.

JEL codes: I130; O130; Q130

Marilyn Sitaker
Battelle, Health & Analytics
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Jane Kolodinsky
University of Vermont
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Stephanie Jilcott Pitts
East Carolina University
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Rebecca Seguin
Cornell University
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