The Local Food Movement | Benefits of Eating Locally Sourced Food
How eating locally sourced food supports you, the environment, the economy, and more!
Written by Naomi Kereliuk, Acadia University Student in the Nutrition and Dietetics program and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team
You’ve likely seen signs encouraging you to “Buy Local” or “Support Local”, but have you ever wondered why exactly? In this blog post we dive into the local food movement and the benefits that eating locally sourced food can have on your health, the community, the environment, and the economy.
The local food movement is a concept that has been around since the early 20th century but has gained significant attention over the past decades. It promotes the idea of enjoying food that comes from your own community. The local food movement focuses on getting food from nearby farmers, producers, and markets rather than relying on processed foods that travel long distances. Eating locally is also associated with the desire to eat healthier foods that have high nutritional value. Additionally, eating locally has been considered to be more environmentally sustainable because the food is often grown using less energy intensive methods and does not have to travel as far. Lastly, eating locally and the local food movement is seen as a way to create a sense of community around food and direct money towards the local economy rather than large corporations beyond our local area.
Keep reading to learn more!
Key Benefits of Eating Locally
1. Sense of Community
Farmers markets are a great place to find fresh and nutritiously rich food. They also allow you to connect directly with the farmers who grow it. When you shop locally at farmer’s markets, you can ask the farmers questions about how they farm, so you know where and how your food is produced. This is essential in shortening the knowledge gap that can often lead to misinformation about animal health, pesticide use, GMOs, etc. You might even learn some gardening tips from farmers too! It‘s a great way to be more connected to your food and the community.
These lively markets play a big role in creating healthy food systems that benefit the environment, community, and homes. When you support farmers at your local market, you help them keep farming and contribute to sustaining local agriculture. So, not only do you get to enjoy tasty and nutritious produce, but you also become an essential part of supporting these hardworking farmers and their passion for producing food for the community.
2. Environmental Impacts
Farmers markets offer a sustainability advantage since much of the produce doesn’t need extensive packaging due to the short distance it travels. By choosing their products, you may be able to lower your carbon footprint. However, researchers have found that the impact a food product has on the environment depends on more than just the distance it has traveled to get to your plate. It is important to consider other things such as how much land is used, how efficiently it’s made, how it’s transported on a large scale, and whether it’s made from plants or not.
Furthermore, when you shop locally, vendors have the freedom to use less packaging, which can have a positive impact on the environment. Additionally, it becomes much simpler to adopt the habit of bringing your own reusable bag to the market, further contributing to the reduction of plastic waste. Supporting local businesses not only benefits the community but also plays a significant role in promoting eco-friendly practices and reducing our environmental footprint.
Another benefit of eating locally and shopping at your local farmer’s markets can be the opportunity to eat a diverse diet of locally grown produce and cultural foods that you may not pick up at your regular grocery store. Research shows that moving towards a diverse diet of plant-based foods and away from highly processed foods is good for both your health and the health of the planet!
3. Fresher and More Nutritious Food
Fruits and vegetables from local farmers may have had more time to grow on the vine, tree, or in the ground, resulting in better taste and higher nutrient content. Air, artificial lights, and temperature changes during transport lower a food’s nutritional value as well. When it comes to fresh produce, the shorter the time and distance from the farm to the market, the more vitamins and minerals they retain. Eating locally also lessens the potential for food loss along the way, reducing unnecessary food waste.
Learn how to get the most out of your local produce for September, here!
4. Is it more expensive?
Food in season means more availability and often leads to lower prices both at the grocery store and the markets. Shop seasonal produce both at the farmers’ markets and in the grocery store and use apps and flyers to find out the best savings.
For more food budgeting tips check out this article on economical eating and the top 7 healthiest vegetables to eat on a budget.
Shop locally for an easy way to buy produce when it is in season! In some cases, you may also learn that local vendors can have more stable prices than chain grocery stores.
5. Supports the local economy
Small businesses are shown to play a significant role in creating jobs which means that buying local products may help maintain steady employment levels and can even lead to more job opportunities for people in the community. This is also true for farmers in Canada. Local farmers are part of the Canadian agriculture industry supply chain that in 2022, employed 2.3 million people and provided 1 in 9 jobs in Canada. Local producers may also be able to retain more of the profits from their labor, which can further support the local economy.
When we talk about making sure everyone has enough food (food security) and accessing the diversity of food many of us like to eat throughout the year at times when our growing conditions can be challenging such as over the winter, relying only on local food systems might not be enough. Having local food systems can help rural and urban areas create a strong sense of community, lower environmental impacts, produce nutritious food, and boost the economy for the area. While eating locally sourced food absolutely has its advantages as you can see, it’s not to say that international foods don’t.
Although local food systems can be great for some farmers, if we only focus on local food and ignore international trade and global markets, it could hurt the farmers who rely on those markets to sell their products successfully.
Get to know Canadian food and the people behind it at Farm & Food Care.
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Brought to you by our friendly Registered Dietitian team at Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. For more balanced living advice check out our RESOURCE MEGA BANK of nutrition articles, videos, healthy recipes, newsletters and meal planning kits here: www.healthstandnutrition.com/personal-nutrition/resource-mega-bank/