Keeping Food Dollars in WV
Everyone eats, and everyone – rich or poor -- spends money on food. Sourcing food locally means creating local jobs in agriculture and the food industry while drastically increasing the amount of money that goes to West Virginian businesses instead of leaving the state.
According to the West Virginia University Small Farms Center, West Virginians consume at least $6.6 billion in food each year. More than 90% of the food consumed in West Virginia comes from outside the state. While food expenditures per West Virginian citizen are about $3,400 per year, total local agricultural sales in West Virginia amount to only $8 per year per citizen.
If we increase the amount of West Virginia-produced food we consume by just 10%, the economic impact would be approximately $66 million in revenues that that would stay inside the state instead of going food producers and processors elsewhere.
A study by the Fair Food Foundation takes this logic a few steps further in Michigan, showing that just in the city of Detroit, shifting twenty percent of food spending to local food and beverage products would increase annual economic output by nearly half a billion dollars. The city would receive nearly $20 million more in business taxes each yearMore than 4,700 jobs would be created, paying $125 million more in earnings. (According to West Virginia University Small Farms Center, the economic impact of farmers markets currently provides the equivalent of about 64 jobs. Tremendous opportunities exist for growth.)
Recent surveys by the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia show that many West Virginian businesses, including restaurants and grocery stores, have already started purchasing local food as a substantial percentage of their overall food purchases.
When we look closely at how farms bring economic development benefits back to their communities, we find that “small is beautiful:” research suggests that small farms may return more economic benefit back to their communities than larger farms. In economic terms, a “multiplier” refers to the number of times a dollar cycles back into the economy of a particular place. If a business has a high multiplier, the money consumers spend at that business is spent over and over again more times in the local economy. According to a report by Crossroads Resource Center, the multiplier for a farm may be 1.4 in an area where large-scale farms prevail; small-farm areas of Wisconsin report a higher multiplier of about 2.6.
Click here for more research on the economic impacts of local foods.