The good food revolution encourages people to eat local. Choosing local, fresh food offers benefits to our health, the environment and our future.
According to the Heart and Family Health Institute, food consumed in the US travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to the dinner table. As the time between harvest and consumption increases, the nutrient value decreases. According to an article published by Rodale Institute, researchers at Montclair State University revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from another country compared to when it was sourced locally.
Supporting the “shop local” movement, including food can have an impact on pollution as increased transportation equals increased air emissions. A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control suggests that efforts to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality can also help improve the respiratory health of a community. During the 1996 Summer Olympics Games in Atlanta, when peak morning traffic decreased 23 percent and peak ozone levels decreased 28 percent, emergency visits for asthma events in children decreased 42 percent. At the same time, children’s emergency room visits for causes other than asthma did not change. The production, transportation and processing of food is an energy- intensive endeavor.
An article from The University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems states that modern agriculture and the food system as a whole have developed a strong dependence on fossil energy — 7.3 units of primarily fossil energy are consumed for every unit of food energy produced. An example related by Michael Pollen is that it takes 50 calories to produce one calorie of lettuce that is grown in California and consumed in New York. Eating fresh also saves the energy, and therefore pollution, required to convert raw goods into the convenience foods that have become so popular.
If you enjoyed Wisconsin strawberries in June I hope you noticed the sweet taste difference compared to strawberries imported to our state in January. Why is this? Flavor increases the longer it is allowed to ripen on the vine. According to a study conducted by the Journal of American Society for Horticulture Sciences, vine-ripened fruits have higher sugar content and are sweeter than fruits picked prior to ripeness - hence they taste better.
An additional benefit of shopping local is increased engagement with the foods one is consuming. Exploring foods at the farmers market, the local food cooperative Goodside Grocery or a Community Supported Agriculture box can be an adventure. When one sees or receives produce that is new, look it up and explore new recipes. Add extra vegetables to a homemade pizza, roast vegetables for a delicious sandwich, or add minced vegetables to pasta sauce or meatballs. To learn more about local foods and gardening join Nourish for volunteer hours 9 a.m. until noon each Thursday through September at the Educational Urban Farm across from RCS Empowers. Or, join Nourish for an upcoming Community Dinner to learn more about seasonal cooking and recipes.
Heather Cleveland is the executive director of Nourish