Regional and Local Food Systems

The Iowa Regional Foods System Working Group (RFSWG) is comprised of practitioners and community leaders from more than 25 groups that meet quarterly to build more vibrant regional food systems. The group was convened in 2003 by the Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative as part of the Value Chain Partnerships program. 

The goals of RFSWG

  • Identify the key elements found in specific geographic areas that create a vibrant and sustainable regional food system.
  • Work with leaders and food businesses in specific geographic areas and/or communities to identify and support the key elements that are not yet well developed.
  • Help identify and measure key indicators that determine whether there is positive change in the regional food system as a result of projects or programs.
  • Develop and implement a process for continuous learning across Iowa about what it takes to make a regional food system more vibrant and sustainable.


Regional Food Partnerships and Coalitions

State map of local food partnerships

RFSWG Resources 

To learn more about the RFSWG, contact Craig Chase, (515) 294-3711,
or assistant coordinator Lynn Heuss,, (515) 201-9405.

Food system assessments

The Leopold Center has completed food system assessments using several approaches including food mapping, community discussions, historical data and trends. A sampling of different assessments are listed below:

Market research

A number of Leopold Center grants and in-house projects provide valuable information in establishing new markets:

Place-based foods and agritourism

Unique foods have always attracted followers, one of the basic concepts behind agritourism. The Leopold Center has funded projects and conducted research to help Iowa farmers expand markets.


  • Food Pantry Produce Donations ISU Extension and Outreach publication PM 1974E
  • Iowa Farm to School Program Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
  • Iowa Farm to School Toolkit This website shares what's happening at the 23 Iowa Farm to School chapters
  • Iowa MarketMaker An interactive website where farmers can register their business to find markets in their area. It was originally developed in Illinois and expanded to Iowa with a Leopold Center grant. The database now includes 17 states and a variety of other marketing resources.