Local food does not have a universally agreed upon definition which leaves the consumer to decide for themselves. It is commonly defined as food grown within 100 miles or within the state. The definition may vary based on the region and seasonal availability. Regardless of your chosen definition, purchasing food grown closer to your home will provide the following health, economic and environmental benefits.
1. Allows you to follow a seasonal diet which is often more economical
2. Provides more nutrients and flavor because the food spends less time transitioning from harvest to plate and therefore can be harvested closer to its peak ripeness
3. Increases food security by making local, fresh food available to populations with limited access to healthful foods
4. Supports a relationship between the farmer and consumer and therefore develops healthy, trusting communities
5. Supports the local economy by investing money back into local resources
6. Promotes local growers which allows the consumer to inquire about farming and processing techniques
7. Reduces food miles decreasing subsequent greenhouse gas emissions Note: on average food travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate
8. Benefits the environment by preserving farmland and green space within communities
9. Creates a safer food supply by avoiding mass production and decreasing the chance of large scale contamination
10. Reduces overall environmental impacts because it usually does not require excessive packaging
So next time you are at the grocery store or farmers market, vote with your dollar to support your local economy, protect the environment and to benefit your health!
By Bethany Frieler, MS, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern