I am always looking for educational opportunities to share with my children. A trip to the grocery store is a geography lesson all by itself. Apples from New Zealand, oranges from South Africa, and grapes from Chili. The list of countries goes on and on. Eating locally is challenging when you shop at a large chain grocery store but it is vital for a sustainable food supply! There are many benefits of eating locally grown food for both you AND the planet.
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Eating Locally: Does it Matter?
We hear every day about how we live in a ‘global economy’. What price do we pay for transporting our food halfway across the country before we eat it? Eating locally is difficult in a nation as interconnected as ours is. There is a wonderful resource that you can read that is published by the National Resource Defense Council that goes into great detail about this topic. I am going to bore you with a couple of statistics…stick with me for just a minute!
Local Foods are More Nutritious
According to the Center for Health and the Global Environment, food that is allowed to ripen on the vine is more nutritious. Since food that is coming from across the world cannot be allowed to ripen on the vine, it’s nutritional value is lacking compared to locally grown produce. Increased nutrition is just one of many benefits of eating locally grown food. Growing your own food is a great way to eat as locally as possible so I definitely recommend learning how to garden.
Eating Locally is Better for the Environment!
Okay, enough statistics! You know those apples, grapes, and oranges I mentioned earlier? Those are all items which grow in my region. I live in Central Georgia. North Georgia has loads of apples. Muscadine grapes grow wild all around my town. Florida (only a few hours away by truck!) is probably one of the most prolific orange growing regions in the country.
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So why is my food making a trans continental journey? Eating locally should be easy in an area with as many farms as the south has.
Learn to Eat Seasonally!
One big problem is that we Americans are slightly spoiled. (really?) We want asparagus in August and apples in February. If we want zucchini in March we are going to need to import it from somewhere hot since it will not grow in the U.S in March. One important aspect of eating locally is learning to do without certain items when they are not in season.
So, what does this mean for my weekly shopping list? I still have a family to feed, right? What I try and do is buy as close to my home as possible. If it is a choice between North Carolina blueberries or California strawberries, this week…we eat blueberries. Eating locally may require a bit of flexibility and creative shopping on your part. Or, check out my post on wildcrafting and learn how to forage for your own meal!
Choose Organic When Possible
Shop Farmers Markets
Shop your local farmer’s markets if you want to start eating locally! Here in Georgia, zucchini grows like a weed in the summer. Farmers are practically GIVING it away! If you would like to find a farmer’s market in your area, check out Local Harvest. Learn to preserve your summer bounty either by canning, freezing, pickling, etc (check out my post on how to freeze rhubarb properly!). I recently got a book called Put ‘Em Up by Storey Publishing to help me learn to preserve the items I can find in season.
Peppers and onions can be sliced and/or diced and frozen back in convenient quantities for use in winter recipes. Last year, I stocked up on peaches and after removing the skins and slicing (15 minutes TOTAL for 3 pounds!) I froze them and made peach crisp several times over the winter. It does take some planning but it is not difficult to do!
Find a farmer!
There are so many more issues surrounding our food production system than I have touched on in this article. The frequent egg recalls have brought to light the horrors of factory farmed eggs, however local legislation (at least here in Georgia) makes it impossible for us to take control of our own egg production by raising chickens.
Other issues like the increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has been attributed to the massive use of antibiotics in livestock. Food born illnesses are on the rise. Not to mention the humanitarian issues surrounding the raising of factory farmed animals.
Eating locally will help reduce your carbon footprint but will also go a long way towards ensuring that your family is eating safe, nutritious food! And local farmers will reap the economic benefits of local food.
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.