We all eat!
A sustainable food system is important to everyone.
Eating Locally is one way of supporting that sustainable system.
- As of 1998 our food was calculated to travel an average of 1500 miles before reaching our tables.
- When traveling internationally, our food travels about 2800 miles.
- These numbers don’t even include processed foods and the energy that goes into their processing, packaging, and shipping.1
Another way to look at this is in terms of calories:
The ratio of fossil fuel spent per calorie gained is 7 to 1.2
Chad Heeter breaks this down nicely in his article, “The Oil in Your Oatmeal: A Lot of Fossil Fuel Goes into Producing, Packaging and Shipping Our Breakfast.”
Local food is fresher food.
Farmers often harvest within 24 hours of selling their produce.
Generally accepted dietary values don’t necessarily reflect the actual values by the time shipped produce reaches the consumer.
- Spinach loses a substantial amount of both folate and carotenoids.3
- Many fruits and vegetables suffer a loss in Vitamin C during transport. Some foods never even have the chance to vine ripen in sunlight, thus reducing Vitamin C even further.4
Local food offers greater variety.
Produce must be able to withstand the rigors of long distance travel, so only very specific crops are used—often those with the toughest skins.
- Local farmers can diversify—bringing to market a variety of goods such as heirloom tomatoes.
- Since so few crops are regularly utilized in our food system, about 97% of the vegetable varieties grown in 1903 are now extinct.5
Consumers pay farmers or local businesses directly.
- Farmers can then invest in their own farms and possibly confront development pressure.
- In our long distance food system (as of 1997), farmers generally receive only 23% of each dollar spent on food.6
- The rest is spent on marketing, transport, processing, and corporate profits.
We have a greater connection to our food.
The closer we are to our food, the better we understand what is required to bring that food to us. Whether we grow the food ourselves or listen to a farmer or rancher, we gain a greater knowledge of the natural systems at work in concert with people who work very hard so that we might enjoy good food.
Local food tastes better.
If you haven’t tried it, then do now. The food will speak for itself.
- Pirog, R., Van Pelt, T., Enshayan, K., & Cook, E. (2001, June). Food, fuel, and freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Ames, IA: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
- Heeter, C. (2006, March 26). The oil in your oatmeal: A lot of fossil fuel goes into producing, packaging and shipping our breakfast. San Francisco Chronicle.
- Pandrangi, S., & LaBorde, L. (2006, May). Retention of folate, carotenoids and other quality characteristics in commercially packaged fresh spinach. Journal of Food Science, 69, C702–C707.
- Lee, S. K., & Kader, A. A. (2000). Preharvest and postharvest factors influencing vitamin c content of horticultural crops. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 20, 207–220.
- Fowler, C., & Mooney, P. (1990). Shattering: Food Politics and the Loss of Genetic Diversity. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
- Elitzak, H. Food cost review, 1950-97. (Agricultural Economic Report No. 780). Food and Rural Economics Division, Economic Research Service, USDA.