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Connecting producers and consumers to the local food economy during COVID-19

Local Food Anywhere platform expands direct-to-consumer markets.

In response to COVID-19, companies are adapting their resources to provide essentials like personal protective equipment or offering new or free services to ease the strain on the transition to a new normal.

As markets change in the food supply due to the pandemic, Forager, an online source connecting wholesale and retail buyers with independent farmers, fishers, and grocers, is helping local producers increase their sales and connections to consumers.

Local Food Anywhere (LFA) is Forager’s new site where food producers can create a profile with their inventory and sell to consumers who are searching for local, fresh food delivered or available for pick-up safely and easily.

LFA has over 400 producers listed nationwide, which are searchable on a free, interactive map. Forager created this site to support the availability of local food, the company’s core mission and its passion.

“Many farmers and fishers have been trying to expand their direct-to-consumer businesses in the wake of losing restaurant demand overnight and the very traumatic, immediate shock this was to their business model,” says Joe Blunda, CEO of Forager. “What we’ve helped work with our farmers and fishers on is building a new operational agility. Beyond that, there’s the need to connect to consumers in a way that makes it very easy for them to visualize what fresh foods are near and how easy it is to get their hands on it.”

Forager is committed to giving sellers the tools they need to increase markets and eventually their revenue. For that reason, Forager’s own wholesale buying technology is completely free of cost to local farmers and fishers, including training to add a profile, creating and updating product lists, and future functionality currently under development. LFA is the latest addition to Forager’s toolkit for producers.

“With LFA, we’re trying to work with and support a community around local foods. It is designed to close the gap and help make local food more visible and more available at a moment when we are all getting very strong indicators that consumers want more of it,” explains Blunda.

On a day-to-day basis, consumers are focusing on where their food comes from and increasing their support locally. Blunda says that those trends have been strengthened by COVID-19. “In this unfortunate crisis, the silver lining of this terrible moment in our nation is that we are all rebuilding our cultural connections to food and that, at the end of the day, is what farmers and fishers need from consumers.”

Future of the Local Food Economy

In addition to profiling producers on the Local Food Anywhere site, grocers and retailers will soon be listed.

“One of the benefits of our work has been that we have met so many grocers who have a strong commitment to buying local food, and we’re working on ways to expand on that,” says Blunda.

Of value to consumers is being presented with all of the realistic options to buy local. Blunda says that while direct-to-farm, virtual farmers’ markets, and other direct-to-consumer channels are critical paths, Forager will work to ensure that grocers and other retailers remain invested in local commitments.

While there are still many unforeseen challenges in the future, strengthening the local food supply chain will remain at the core of Forager’s mission.

“The next phase of change is going to come from looking into markets, rebuilding businesses, and working with new wholesale buyers and others to enable a local food supply chain for them from day one,” says Blunda. “That will help them attract consumers and will help all of us maintain a higher level of local food in the economy.”

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