Food,  Shopping

Week 10: Eat Local

Sometimes when we think about being more green, it’s hard to make the mental connection to the food that we eat. However, it’s one of the most important connections that we can think about. The food industry contributes a huge amount of carbon emissions to the world, and by making a few important changes in the way we buy and eat food, we can drastically reduce our personal contribution to that carbon footprint.

You may have heard of the idea of the “100 mile diet”. I think it’s pretty cool. The concept is to find all the food you need within a 100 mile radius (give or take). The effects of eating locally like this are threefold. First, you’re reducing carbon emissions by not transporting the food across the country, or sometimes across the planet. Second, you’re supporting local food producers and feeding resources back into your local economy. (This is great for local resilience!) Finally, you’re more likely to be eating whole, unprocessed foods which are more healthy for you and your family.

If you’re ready to start eating locally, start with some of the following ideas:

Check out your local farmer’s market for fresh produce, bread, meat, cheese, and more. I have amazing memories of going to the farmer’s market with my dad growing up. Now my whole family goes every week to get about ⅓ of our weekly groceries. During the winter, it’s a bit harder to eat seasonally but a local CSA can help.
CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture – a system where farms offer pre-purchased shares of their produce and you can pick up your shares weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Depending on where you live, some farms will offer winter shares as well. CSAs provide an awesome way to support your local farms directly, while you and your family get to enjoy amazing local, fresh, whole food.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there are some folks who think that eating locally will cost more. This definitely is NOT true, but you can’t buy food the same way you might be used to. I’ve found that buying whole foods, local or otherwise, requires a bit of a shift in thinking. You need to move away from processed, packaged food like granola bars, pre-made dinners, juice boxes, etc. and get used to making more from scratch. It may seem like more work at first, but it’s become part of our weekly habits and the outcome is that we are eating more healthily, saving money, and producing less trash. Talk about a win-win-win!

The Strolling of the Heifers, a food advocacy group, offers a list of “10 Reasons to Consume More Local Food”, which they include in their annual Locavore Index.

  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating less greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore, loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for gene pool and the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism — farmers’ markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers.

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