Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

David Shively, Jill Belsky


broadline, foodservice, local food, local food movement, local food systems, marketing, regional food systems, social embeddedness, SYSCO


University of Montana


Increasing demand for local food by foodservice establishments creates new opportunities and challenges for the local food movement. While there is considerable potential for local suppliers to sell more product volume closer to home, the business needs of foodservice establishments may not be compatible with direct marketing approaches that have fueled the growth of the movement. Foodservice establishments typically rely on distributors to provide them with the majority of their food. Drawing on the success of direct marketing, new indirect marketing approaches that link producers and consumers through intermediaries are increasingly advanced within food system localization. The dominance of SYSCO Corporation as an intermediary for foodservice markets has stimulated a dialogue between food system localization actors and this national corporation. New corporate initiatives, such as Buy Local, Sell Fresh, highlight the entry of national corporations into the local food movement. Most of the literature and research on local food systems deals with direct marketing approaches, but there has been little discussion of the role of national foodservice distributors in local food systems, where their inclusion appears potentially contradictory to food system localization. Through in-depth interviews with a SYSCO Corporation official and a telephone survey of SYSCO’s broadline operating companies, this research provides an analysis of this corporation’s current involvement in local food systems, focusing on how factors such as scale, social embeddedness, marketness, and instrumentalism influence these indirect markets. The results indicate that these factors appear as interrelated variables, influencing these markets and the relationships between network actors. While there are exceptions, the benefits of direct marketing which fostered the growth of the local food movement may be absent or marginalized in corporate-mediated foodservice markets. The overall role of SYSCO Corporation in “local” food systems appears to be fairly limited because there is often a conflation of “local” and “regional,” influencing both the procurement activities of SYSCO operating companies and their perspectives on the values associated with “local” food. There is, however, growing support for procurement at a regional level, evidenced through SYSCO’s procurement activities and perspectives which relate to value chains in regional networks.



© Copyright 2007 David Scott Kennedy