Small Island Developing States (SIDS) share high burdens of nutrition-related conditions, including non-communicable diseases, associated with an increasing reliance on imported, processed foods. Improving health through increasing the production and consumption of local, nutritious foods is a policy objective of many SIDS governments. This study aimed to understand contemporary challenges and opportunities to strengthening local food systems in two case study settings, Fiji and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Fifty-two in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders involved in local food production. Interviews were analysed by both country teams using thematic analysis. Local food production networks in both settings included formal governance bodies as well as more informal connections through civil society and communities. Their main function was the sharing of resources and knowledge, but levels of trust and cooperation between the stakeholders varied in a market open to intense competition from imports. Local food production was hindered by few and slow investments by local governments, dated technology, and lack of knowledge. Stakeholders believed this marginalisation was occurring against a background of rising preferences for imported foods in the population, and increasing disinterest in employment in the sector. Despite the challenges, strong narratives of resilience and opportunity were highlighted such as national pride in local produce for commercialisation and local diets. Efforts to support local food production in SIDS should focus on strengthening governance structures to prioritise local produce over corporate and import markets, assist collaboration and co-learning, and support alternative agro-food practices. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12571-022-01281-0.