With 8 billion people living on Earth, the need to buy local, sustainable food is only gaining in importance. Find out how you can do your part to protect the environment and support your community by buying locally grown, sustainable foods.
On average, the food you eat has traveled 1,500 miles to get from the farm to your dining room table. That’s a lot! And foods like fruits, veggies, and cheese often travel much farther. The distance our food travels from the farm to our forks has a big impact on the climate and our environment. It also impacts your wallet in ways you might not even realize.
Our food arrives on our plate through a process known as our food chain, or food system. And it has five, main components:
Production: This includes the water, air, soil, seeds, and tools necessary to grow and harvest our food. Pesticides and fertilizers are also involved in this part of the process.
Processing: This includes procedures like mixing, baking, curing, and adding vitamins, minerals, and flavors. When it comes to eating healthy, nutritious foods, the less processing that takes place, the better. Increased processing means more waste and less nutritious foods.
Distribution: This includes packaging, marketing, and transportation. When foods have to travel great distances to reach the consumers, they require more packaging to keep those foods safe and protected. Locally-grown foods, on the other hand, require fewer resources for their distribution.
Consumption: This is the part of the food system we all directly participate in: eating! Consuming local, sustainable foods has lots of benefits for our health, our environment, our local agriculture, and our economy. The goal of food is for consumption, but much of what is produced actually gets thrown out.
Disposal: This is what happens with food waste and excess packaging. Disposal is a part of the food chain that often gets overlooked. Once food enters our homes, we don’t usually think about what happens with the boxes, bags, styrofoam, and packaging it came in. And the extra food in our fridge that’s growing mold or expires has to be disposed of, too.
When we waste food, we waste the water and fossil fuels it took to grow and transport it. It’s estimated that 30-40% of food is discarded. That’s a disturbing statistic when you think about the number of people who are starving around the world and experiencing food scarcity.
Our food chain has a domino effect because when one part of the food chain is affected, the whole chain is affected. All of those changes affect the price of our foods and have an environmental impact.
When you buy food from local, sustainable sources, you are not just helping the environment, you’re supporting your local economy and community too. Buying from market stands and family-owned farms puts more money into the pockets of the people who live in your area. Farmers lose out on extra profits when their food has to travel across the continent to get to consumers.
If you want to strengthen your local food chain, you can
- buy unpackaged food
- buy from local farms or farmers’ markets
- participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
- grow your own foods either in your own backyard or at a community garden.
Supporting local agriculture is better for the environment, your community, your health, and your wallet.
Sustainable foods are produced, processed, distributed, consumed, and disposed of in ways that support our health and environment.
Over the years, commercial farming has wreaked havoc on our land. Less than 5% of food is made organically. Non-organic foods are bad for the earth and not as nutritious for our bodies. Nutrients are diminished through standard farming practices.
You can do your part to support sustainable food practices:
- Decrease the amount of waste you produce.
- Eat a plant-based diet.
- Buy local, sustainable, and seasonal foods.
- Choose fair-trade products.
- Select fish from sustainable sources.
- Grow your own food.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Benefits of Eating Locally Sourced, Sustainable Foods
When you buy food locally, it is fresh, ripe, and ready to be eaten. It hasn’t been riding on a food truck for a few days before reaching the grocery store, waiting for you to buy it. Some of the “fresh” foods you buy in grocery stores are artificially ripened. How do they do that? Chemicals. Yuck.
That’s why eating locally-grown fruits and veggies is just better. They’re bursting with flavor and not covered with as many fertilizers and chemicals.
Small farms often grow a variety of crops. However, large, corporate farms typically grow just one thing. When there is more biodiversity, it means the plants are less vulnerable to diseases and pests. It means the soil is healthier, and crops can thrive for generations. Biodiversity is important for a happy, healthy earth.
When you buy food locally, less money is wasted on transportation. It means you’re saving money, and you’re protecting the earth. Fewer fossil fuels are being burned to get fresh food to your doorstep.
You also decrease food waste because it doesn’t have to be covered in packaging in order to safely arrive at your house. All of that extra packaging has to go somewhere, and that place is usually the garbage dump. That means even after the food has traveled to you, it has to travel away from your house too. That’s a lot of extra fossil fuel.
Your local farmers are beyond grateful for your support. Their families are just like yours. They add incredible value to your community with their hard work and knowledge of agriculture and nature. They have great respect for the land and our environment. When you buy local, sustainable foods, you’re keeping these farms in business.
Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods can have an incredible impact on your overall health and well-being. Fresh fruits and vegetables have significant health benefits that can help decrease your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
A plant-based diet is not just good for your body, it’s good for the earth too. You can protect our oceans, save the rainforests, decrease your carbon footprint, and improve our air quality all while loading up your plate with local fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
If you’re worried about the environment and you want to do something about it, buy local, sustainable foods. This way, you can support your own community and do your part to protect the earth too.
Written by Aftan Hoffer
I’m a self-proclaimed flexitarian, living in Lancaster, PA with my vegetarian husband and our two picky, omnivore toddlers. We’re also a foster family, so the number of chairs around our dinner table can change from time to time. Meals at our house involve a variety of foods, so everyone has at least one thing they’re excited to eat. No one wants a battle at mealtime.