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Calculator to help people choose local, healthy foods

Date: 11/1/2013

By Lori Szepelak

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Economists from Western New England University and Hampshire College recently partnered with CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) to create an online Local Food Calculator that can help area residents understand why choosing local food helps create jobs and other economic benefits in the region.

During CISA’s 20th anniversary year, Philip Korman, CISA executive director, announced a bold goal to double the amount of local food in the diets of Pioneer Valley residents over the next 20 years.

“We partnered with economists Anita Dancs, Department of Economics, Western New England University, and Helen Scharber, Department of Social Services, Hampshire College, to develop this calculator to help show people how they were doing and why local food matters to the economy,” Korman said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have an easy way to show how important personal food choices are to the local economy.”

Korman added that CISA’s “hope” is that the calculator’s personalized results will inspire area residents to make new commitments to purchase local and encourage others to join them in the local food journey.

The online calculator, found at, helps area residents tally up the percent of one’s food budget that is spent on local food products and then shows the impact one can have if you commit to increasing your local purchases (especially if you can convince others to follow your example!).

Korman noted that the calculator is based on user input and data from IMPLAN, a modeling tool that measures the economic effect of specific actions on the regional economy. IMPLAN data allows the calculator to demonstrate, for example, that shifting just $5 per week of your purchases to local fruits and vegetables contributes 1.82 times as much income to the local economy as purchasing non-local fruits and vegetables.

“If every household in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties made this shift, we would see an increase of 516 jobs and add $24 million per year to the local economy,” Korman said.

Korman added that shifting meat, dairy, and/or egg purchases has an even greater impact (between 2.07 and 2.58 times) for the local economy.

CISA’s website also provides an extensive listing of regional farmers who can help area residents increase their local food purchases and economic impact throughout the year. Even with the colder months fast approaching, there are winter farmers’ markets offered across the region, as well as food sold directly from farms.

CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members and advocates working together to strengthen local agriculture by building connections between farmers and the community. Now in its 20th year, the organization offers assistance to farmers, provides farm shares for low-income seniors, and runs the nation’s oldest agricultural “buy local” campaign – Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown.

For more information, visit or call 665-7100.