Shopping locally typically means eating food grown or produced within a maximum of 150 miles. The Locavore Movement was built based on eating locally to encourage people to purchase food from farmer’s markets or produce their own food for more fresh and nutritious food (5).
Whether you are dedicated to the locavore movement or just enjoy spending your mornings at the local farmer’s market, you are embracing a more sustainable approach to grocery shopping, helping build a stronger local community, and your produce is more nutritious!
Making small changes to be more sustainable will go a long way. Today, more food is grown than needed to feed the world, yet many people go to bed hungry every night (food fix). The disconnect is disparate distribution. Growing multiple crops close to home reduces spoilage so that more products will reach the table (1). Life-cycle analysis (LCAs) are tools used to determine sustainable development. In the food system, LCAs have found 11% of emissions goes to transportation (McWilliams). By sourcing food closer to home, the transportation emissions are reduced. By purchasing mostly local, a shift away from big production to local could happen.
The consumer can make their shopping more sustainable too. Grocery store shoppers can buy in bulk and make fewer car trips to the grocery stores. On the other hand, farmer’s markets can be a more sustainable option if people decide to walk or bike to the farmer's market. Consumers can also use their own reusable bags.
Farmer’s markets use less packaging, eliminating wasteful plastic (McWilliams). Grocery stores contribute to 10% of food waste a year (2). Consumers at farmer’s markets can purchase specific food for their needs, and the proper amount to reduce food waste.
Supporting Community and Fixing Food System
Supporting your local farmers can go a long way. Farmers are facing a difficult competitive marketplace today because large farms dominate the industry making it hard for smaller farms to survive. In 1980, farmers would make 37 cents for every dollar and today they make only 15 cents. Local farms have biodiversity and grow several crops on the farm. This helps produce be resistant to disease. Meanwhile, large farms practice monoculture making the farms highly susceptible to diseases, so products must be treated with chemicals to prevent this. Corporate executives dictate the food system on what we eat, grow, and more. In order to fix the food system, there must be an action at the federal, state, and local levels (Hyman).
Shopping locally is one-way consumers can vote with their wallets to support their local farmers and help make meaningful change.
We want to make sure we are getting the most for our money. Local produce tends to be more nutrient-dense and fresh than grocery store produce. Some produce does not travel as well and loses its nutritional value.
Seasonal products can be easily bought at the farmer’s market and are much more flavorful than out of season products.
Local farms typically grow organically. This eliminates any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are highly debated in the nutrition field if GMOs are safe or not (Hyman).
Lastly, a study found a negative relationship between eating locally with diabetes and obesity. “Dr. Matthew J. Salois estimated that for every $100 increase in spending per capita on locally-sourced fruits and vegetables, you can expect to see a decrease of 1.1 percent of the area's obesity rate and a decrease of 1.3 percent in the area's diabetes rate,” from HuffPost. (3)(4).
Small changes make a difference to help the environment, change the food system, and buy more nutrient, flavorful produce for your body. Next time you shop locally, be proud of the positive contribution you made to those local farmers, your own body, and the environment.
Hyman - Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet--One Bite at a Time by Dr. Mark Hyman
McWilliams - Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James E. McWilliams