Mayor Announces Plan for Expanded Local Food System

Published on July 17, 2023

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird unveiled Lincoln’s new Local Food System Plan, designed to make the local food system more resilient, enhance supports for farmers and producers who sell to the Lincoln market, and increase equitable access to fresh, affordable and nutritious foods. 

A 10-member Community Committee on Local Food engaged over 800 area residents and food producers in late 2022 through public meetings and surveys to determine local food-based priorities and how they could be addressed. Completed in Spring 2023, the Local Food System Plan is designed to enhance Lincoln’s food system via four main goals: 

  • Increase and ensure access to healthy food 

  • Invest in the local food and farm community to increase local food production 

  • Promote food production methods that protect the environment 

  • Reduce food waste 

“Lincoln’s new Local Food System Plan will position our community to reap the benefits of a thriving local food system – supporting local farmers, expanding markets, creating jobs, increasing food security, improving health outcomes, reducing carbon emissions, and instilling a sense of pride in our community,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. 

Joining Mayor Gaylor Baird were Megan McGuffey, Community Crops Program Coordinator; Nash Leef, Salt Creek Farmers’ Cooperative Worker-Owner; Eric Schafer, President of Telesis, the parent company to local restaurants Lazlo’s and Fireworks; Nash Leef, worker-owner of Salt Creek Farmers' Cooperative; and Chef Nazim Khan, Bryan Medical Center Executive Chef; and Tim Rinne, founder of Hawley Hamlet.

McGuffey, co-chair of the Community Committee on Local Food, said the local food plan helps address some of the biggest challenges community crops organizers see daily, from expanding land access so more people can grow food to helping open markets so local farmers can build successful businesses. Prioritizing local food production can also help protect the community from unpredictable events that threaten food security, she said. 

“Even in the agricultural powerhouse of Nebraska, over 90% of the food we eat each day comes from outside the state,” McGuffey said. “We can secure Lincoln and Lancaster County’s future by planning for a better and more localized food system today.” 

This plan creates a framework to increase access to affordable land and capital, technical assistance, and training programs, laying the groundwork for key metrics to determine progress by target year 2035: 

  • Double the number of acres in Lancaster County that grow food; 

  • Triple the number of institutions that source local food; 

  • Triple the number of community gardens in Lancaster County; 

  • Decrease the number of census tracts by 50% that have low or very low healthy food access. 

Recognizing the vital role of the farming community and small businesses, Leef, local farm worker-owner and Community Committee on Local Food member, applauded the plan's emphasis on empowerment and support. "This plan recognizes that the success of our local food system lies in the vibrancy and vitality of its farming community and small businesses," Leef said. "It values our contributions and seeks to empower us with the resources, support, and knowledge needed to thrive."  

Commenting on the significance of the plan, Khan, Community Committee on Local Food member and advocate for sustainable sourcing, emphasized its potential as an economic driver. "In the long term, I would love to be able to source 60 percent of my ingredients locally," Khan remarked. "More local food will positively impact our local economy." 

Shafer, a member of the local restaurant community, expressed enthusiasm for the plan's holistic approach. "By providing healthier produce, food security, and preserving the natural resources around us," Shafer stated, "we believe in building a more sustainable and healthier environment for our children, and we are excited to see our community moving in this direction." 

The Lincoln Local Food System Plan is scheduled to be considered August 23 by the Planning Commission and September 18 by the City Council. If approved, the City will move forward to secure grant funding and coordinate implementation efforts.