Distribution of Local Food: Best Practices

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 Background | Definition of Local Food and Distribution | Download PDF version of the Manual | E-Book | Presentation | Acknowledgements


The interest in local food has grown in recent years. More and more consumers, large retail chains, schools, universities, and restaurants are interested in purchasing local food products. Local food and food security are linked together and becoming a big topic of discussion. There are more interest groups emerging, creating awareness of local food, conducting research, and in some cases coordinating local food delivery systems.

The purpose of this study was to identify the challenges of increasing Alberta’s local foods in the current food system. In particular, it looked at challenges related to food distribution along the entire value chain, from the producer to the end user, as well as potential solutions to reduce these barriers.

This study consisted of three main stakeholder groups involved in local food distribution:

  • buyers
  • logistics companies (i.e., transportation and storage)
  • producers
The study was conducted as a pilot project, which focused on the Central Region of Alberta; for some of the stakeholder groups, the focus was on the Red Deer area in particular. This regional study will provide a template and knowledge base, which can be applied to other regions of the province.

Definition of Local Food and Distribution

The term local food can have a very different meaning to different people. Consumers may refer to local food as the 100-mile diet, food from their rural community, from a region within the province, or from the province. A buyer on the other hand, may consider local food as coming from the province, a larger region such as Western Canada, from other parts of Canada, or even from North America. Therefore, the term local depends on the perspective of the person, their values, their business, and where they can find the closest supply of that particular type of food, some of which may come from a considerable distance (e.g., certain fruit, fish, etc.). For this project, we referred to local food as product coming from the province of Alberta.

Definition of Local: “Food that is produced or processed in Alberta.”

Distribution is about the movement of products from the producer or processor to the buyer. The project focused on the distribution and movement of small units of product within Alberta, where trucking and/or storage were needed to get it to market. The scope of the project included those producers/processors that have product ready to enter markets beyond the Farmers Markets, but may not necessarily be large enough to serve the needs of large retail stores.

Definition of Distribution: “The movement of products from the producer or processor to the buyer.”
The Distribution of Local Food: Best Practices report consists of the following sections. Each section is available as a downloadable pdf.
  • List of Appendices - 550K PDF
    • Appendix A – Selected Municipalities from Agricultural Central Region of Alberta
    • Appendix B – Reference Tables
      • Table1 – Motivators in Support of Local Food
      • Table 2 – Alberta Produced Food Categories
    • Appendix C – Summary of Buyer Issues – ARD Focus Group Meeting
    • Appendix D – Questionnaire for Buyers
    • Appendix E – Challenges in Purchasing Alberta’s Local Food
      • Ranking and Weighting of Buyers’ Responses
    • Appendix F – Questionnaire for Logistics Companies
    • Appendix G – Questionnaire for Producers’ Focus Groups
    • Appendix H – Local Food Distribution Forum
The Distribution of Local Food: Best Practices report is also available as a 1,744KB downloadable pdf in its entirety


On-line E-book
View and search the Distribution of Local Food: Best Practices e-book, as well as print pages or download it as a PDF file.

Click to open.
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This presentaiton will give you a brief highlight of what you will find in the report. Click to view Presentation:
“Local food distribution: What’s moving local food?”
(Presented to the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association, January 13, 2012)


The study was prepared for the Explore Local Initiative by
Sharon Faye, MBA, BSA, P.Ag.
Market Analyst
Competitiveness and Market Analysis Branch

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) gratefully acknowledges funding for the project through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Steering Committee
This research was conducted in partnership by the Local/Domestic Market Expansion Branch and the Competitiveness and Economics Division.

Acknowledgment goes out to all ARD Committee members for their expertise and/or their contribution towards the development or conducting segments of the study.

Kathy Bosse
Sharon Faye

    With contributions from:
    Linda Maschio
    Magda Beranek
    Marlene Abrams
    Margurite Thiessen
    Nicole Schroth
    Darcy Peters
    Daylin Breen
    Michelle Normand
    Jim Rose
    Pat Ramsey
Facilitators and Interviewers:
Gillian Rutherford
Susan Meyer
Linda Henderson
Janice McGregor

For more information please contact:

Kathy Bosse, New Venture Specialist
Local/Domestic Market Expansion Branch
e-mail: kathy.bosse@gov.ab.ca

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kathy Bosse.
This document is maintained by Stacey Tames.
This information published to the web on September 8, 2011.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 12, 2016.