Where do 'localphiles' shop?

A mixed-methods case study of food-buying habits


  • Emily McKee Northern Illinois University




Local Food Systems, Shopping Behavior, Shopping Priorities, Attitude-Behavior Gap, Mixed Methods, U.S. Midwest


Why, with local food’s rising popularity, do small-scale farmers report declining sales? This study used a mix of survey and interview methods to examine the priorities and buying habits of food shoppers in one midsized, lower-income metro­politan area of the U.S. Midwest. The study focuses on individual consumers’ decision-making because it aims to be useful, in particular, to small-scale farmers and advocates of their participation in local and regional food systems. Among shoppers’ stated priorities, the survey found broad support for local food and relatively low competition be­tween price and local origin as purchasing priori­ties. However, findings also show an attitude-behavior gap, with only a limited increase in ten­dency among self-defined “local” shoppers to purchase from locally oriented venues. As explana­tion for this attitude-behavior gap, survey and interview data point to differential definitions of “local food” and situational barriers (primarily inconvenience and lack of variety) preventing shoppers from buying local food. One factor off­setting these barriers was past experience growing one’s own food. Study findings are used to identify particular avenues for intervention by farmers, eaters, and other food systems builders to broaden access to local food through adjustments to mar­keting strategies, better alignment of wholesale outlets’ practices with the priorities of farmers and eaters, and improved public education about the food system.


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Author Biography

Emily McKee, Northern Illinois University

Associate Professor, Department of Anthro­pology and the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy



How to Cite

McKee, E. (2021). Where do ’localphiles’ shop? A mixed-methods case study of food-buying habits. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(2), 339–358. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.102.023