Five Ways Local Food is Better Food

Posted Friday, April 4, 2008 1:05 PM by Romo

Over at Blogiversity's Forums department people are talkin' green. Not green like moola but green like eco. I jumped in briefly on Writer Lady's post about the greening of her home. She encourages people to share resources they encounter over there on the forum where they can be passed along to others (and I certainly must second her on that). So I shared one thing I do that makes a green difference: I try to focus my grocery purchases around local foods when possible.

The green connection is that by cutting down on excessive transportation (and its requisite companion, storage) the food you buy leaves a smaller, to use some recently en vogue lingo, "carbon footprint." The most basic explanation is that driving food around in trucks requires fuel to move it and fuel to hold it at appropriately cool temperatures. Fuel, of course, is dirty in the environmental scheme of things. Then think about the global market... If driving lettuce from Alamosa to Tallahassee was bad, flying apples from New Zealand to Florida is really bad!

 But here at Five Alive, I want to talk about something else: The other reasons to buy more locally grown foods.

1. Local foods support local farms and thus local economies. 'Nuff said.

2. Local foods spend less time between farm and plate, making them more nutritious. Even the USDA agrees that fresher foods contain more nutrients because vitamins and enzymes degrade with time.

3. Local foods spend less time between farm and plate, making them taste better and look yummier. Along with the nutrients that fade away, flavors, textures, fragrances and colors also decline.

4. Local foods are seasonally appropriate foods. Around the world, many cultures think that eating with the seasons means providing your body with the best nutritional defenses for seasonal ailments.

5. Local foods introduce variety. It doesn't seem obvious at first that by tightening the radius of growing region you actually extend your options, but this is how it works for me: When I don't have to be creative with my food choices, I fall back on the same-old-same-old. When I eat local, I have to try new things because I can't always get my old stand-bys.

And here, point five intersects with point one. When local farms are thriving, they can diversify their plantings and livestock operations to include "specialties."  Heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese, count me in!

These five ways, plus the green one, are not the only reasons--I've heard people talk about the intangible benefits of having their kids "get" that milk comes from a cow before it comes from a carton, for instance. But these five (plus one!) are my personal motivations for keeping food local when I can.

For a more "third person" look at local food and other green good issues, you can find a broad intro in the article "Straightening Out a Broken Food Chain" over at Sustainability Puzzle! Have a look, it's easy and fun.

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