When it comes to food, the term “local” often has a positive connotation. but do we really know why that is? If we were asked to explain why local food is superior, would we be confident that our feelings were based on facts? Well, good news! Local food should make you feel good because it has a variety of benefits that relate to your health, the environment, and the economy. Let’s explore this a little further so that you can fully understand how great local food can be (and why).
For Your Health
1. Diversify The Diet: You may think it’s impossible to eat local unless you REALLY like potatoes and are willing to eat them all winter long. Although potatoes are definitely an easy option, there are also many other produce and grocery items you’ve likely never thought to try before. Having a diverse diet is recommended as it’s an easy way to ensure you maintain a balanced diet and access all essential nutrients (1). At SPUD, we try to introduce our customers to unconventional produce when they’re in season, so keep your eyes peeled!
2. Get More Bang For Your Buck: Well-known food author Michael Pollan highlights in his book In Defense of Food how local produce can be more nutritious than non-local produce because it is picked when it has actually ripened, rather than picked early in order for the produce to not be damaged or become overripe over the course of transportation (2).
3. Spend More Time Cooking: I know some of you are reading this and questioning why any more time spent in the kitchen is a good thing, but stick with me. If you aim to eat a local diet, you are more likely to buy food made with ingredients you can pronounce or recognize. When we cook for ourselves, we know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and can choose ingredients that are meant to benefit our wellbeing, not preserve our food.
For The Environment
4. Reduce Food Miles: Research suggests that the average distance food takes to get from farm to fork is roughly 1,346 miles or 2,166 kilometers (3). With transportation being the main contributor of greenhouse gases, eating a local diet can be one of the most powerful behaviour changes we can make to tackle climate change (4).
5. Support Sustainable Farming: If you have the space and time to grow your own garden, you can’t get more local than that. In addition, when you grow your own food you can control how your food is grown. For example, you could use a rain barrel to water your plants or build a backyard compost to increase your soil’s health while repurposing your food waste.
6. Build Up A Local Economy: In Canada, “local businesses recirculate 2.6 times more revenue back into the local economy than multi-national chains” (5). In other words, when we buy from local businesses, we help build a stronger community at home.
7. Give More To The Farmer: When you buy food that is grown closer to home, more of your dollar is given to the farmer as there are fewer steps in the food’s supply chain from farm to fork (6). That means fewer middlemen that need to be paid.
The benefits of eating local exceeds this list, but I will leave it to you to learn more. It is also worth noting that although eating local is an awesome choice for many reasons, it is also extremely hard to do. Baby steps is always the best way to start! I would try to see if you can make one meal this week that is made only with ingredients from within your province!
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1) Mirmiran, Parvin, et al. “Dietary diversity score in adolescents-a good indicator of the nutritional adequacy of diets: Tehran lipid and glucose study.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition13.1 (2004).
2) Pollan, Michael. In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. pg. 159.
3) Pirog, Rich S., et al. “Food, fuel, and freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions.” (2001).
4) Chapman, Lee. “Transport and climate change: a review.” Journal of transport geography 15.5 (2007): 354-367.
5) BC Buy Local. https://bcbuylocal.com/why-local/
6) Porter, Michael E., and Mark R. Kramer. “Creating shared value.” Managing sustainable business. Springer, Dordrecht, 2019. 323-346.