Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Applied Economics and Statistics

Committee Chair/Advisor

Boys, Kathryn

Committee Member

Fraser , Angela

Committee Member

Kunkel , Beth

Committee Member

Isengildina-Massa , Olga

Committee Member

Zehnder , Geoff


Institutional foodservice, which includes schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, is an important food marketing channel. The centralized nature of the US food system effectively, and supply, logistic and other constraints, effectively precludes small and medium scale (SMS) specialty crop producers from serving as suppliers to these types of operations. Passage of The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and increasing public attention to food safety issues, further complicates this matter. While the FSMA Tester-Hagen Amendment provides regulatory exemptions for SME producers, it is likely that in the future food purchases on or behalf of institutions will require more stringent food safety, traceability and other production practices. Broadly, it is the purpose of this study: (1) to improve understanding of the current barriers which limit the ability of SMS Southeastern specialty crops producers to serve as suppliers to institutional food services; and (2) to identify and document relevant constraints and extension needs of SMS specialty crop producers seeking to implement traceability systems. The geographic area was limited to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
This study was undertaken in two Phases. During Phase I, focus group meetings were conducted with SMS specialty crop producers to explore the barriers and challenges they experienced in their efforts to directly market produce directly to institutions. During Phase II, a second series of focus groups were held which focused on traceability and food-safety considerations of supplying this marketing channel. A majority of cited barriers were akin to those identified in previous studies of other regions. Several challenges arose from recent changes to food safety legislation and/or appeared unique to the region. The requirement of specific product attributes, lack of value-added processing facilities, and insurance and certification requirements, also limited the ability of SMS producers to access this marketing channel. Cost and documentation associated with implementing and maintaining traceability systems, and legal liability were the most cited food-safety challenges. Importantly, possible remedies to these challenges and specific extension needs were also identified. Results will be of interest to those supporting the marketing efforts of specialty crops producers, and other stakeholders in this marketing channel.



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