The impact of COVID-19 on local government stakeholders' perspectives on local food production
Local food production (LFP) can play an important role in ensuring access to food during supply chain disruptions. Because the drafting, adoption, and implementation of policies regulating LFP is under the purview of local governments in many U.S. states, researchers at University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension conducted a study to assess whether COVID-19 affected local government stakeholders’ (LGS) (N=92) perspectives on LFP and the role that LFP can play in responding to public health emergencies. LGS who oversee the drafting, adoption, and implementation of LFP policies include staff responsible for code enforcement, sustainability initiatives, and planning, as well as elected and appointed leaders, such as mayors, city and county managers, and city and county commissioners. The survey assessed LGS’ attitudes and knowledge about LFP. The survey also asked LGS about their perceptions and awareness of LFP in their communities, including their perceptions of the benefits of and barriers to LFP and the ways in which LFP producers were using the food they produced. Survey questions also focused specifically on COVID-19 and the role of LFP in public health emergencies. In particular, survey questions asked whether LGS perceived a change in their own attitudes, knowledge, and perspectives; whether there had been a change in the LFP activities in their communities following COVID-19; and what they thought the role of LFP was in responding to public health emergencies. Direct comparisons of LGS who responded to a 2019 survey (N=43) were assessed for statistically significant changes in overall attitudes, knowledge, or perceived benefits of LFP following COVID-19. This study found that LGS have generally positive attitudes and perceptions of benefits of LFP, including its role in public health emergencies, but have limited knowledge about LFP or awareness of barriers to its implementation. The results of this study indicate that LGS understand the potential benefits of LFP in public health emergencies but would benefit from information and training to support the development of policies and programs in their communities.
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