Keep It Local: Grocery Store Choices and the Environment

Today, there are almost too many food trends to keep up with. Words are constantly thrown around, telling you what to eat–organic, non-GMO, natural, cage-free, and more. All of these are important in our food-buying choices, but this article focuses on just one of many food buzzwords: local.

Next time you visit your neighborhood grocery store or co-op, consider these reasons for purchasing food grown in your area.

Courtesy of Portage BID.
Courtesy of Portage BID.

Local Food: Environmental Impact

Buying locally-sourced food has numerous advantages, but perhaps the most obvious one is the environmental impact.

Transportation

When growers in various parts of the world sell their food, it often travels huge distances before it gets to your plate. For example, a truck must transport the produce from the farm to the grocery store. This is already potentially thousands of miles, especially if the product is something out of season. From there, you have to buy the food and take it home, another several miles potentially. Finally, after all this time, you can eat it. Simply in carbon output from cars, the food arriving on your table requires a lot of energy, not to mention the physical labor involved in picking, driving, and selling the food.

When you buy locally, you severely reduce the amount of transportation that the food has to withstand, helping to eliminate carbon from the atmosphere and taking cars off the road. Better yet, if you tend your own garden, you can get rid of the food transportation entirely, turning a thousand-mile road trip into a simple walk into your backyard.

Courtesy of Backyard Riches.
Courtesy of Backyard Riches.

Growing Methods

Large-scale, corporate farms use a growing system that favors monoculture. This means that the farmers tend to grow massive fields of just one kind of crop in one variety, like corn or beans. After many growing seasons, the soil in the fields loses its nutrients and becomes unable to sustain the continuous farming. As these practices continue, we lose more and more farmable land, which is unsustainable for our earth and for our people.

Local, small-scale and urban farms tend to grow a wide variety of vegetables in a small area, giving the soil the diversity it needs to be healthy. In turn, this makes the vegetables more nutrient-rich as well. The farming becomes a restorative process. Additionally, small-scale local farms grow a large number of varieties, giving you vegetables in many different shapes and colors. This also makes for beautiful-looking food, like tomatoes in purple, yellow, and green, or golden and scarlet turnips. Your salads will never look dull with locally-sourced vegetables.

Courtesy of Localita Il Piano.
Courtesy of Localita Il Piano.

Buying Local: Where do I do it?

So, you’re sold on the locally-sourced food. How do you support it?

Grocery Stores and Co-ops

Check your neighborhood grocery store to see if they offer a selection of local food. Look at the labels of the products to see where they’re from, or ask the grocer. Co-ops also tend to be good options for locally-sourced options, and you can know that the labor practices of the organization are all good as well.

Farmer’s Markets

Be wary of farmer’s markets! Some folks take advantage by selling you food from all around the country in the context of a local market. Don’t be tricked by them, and make sure you ask the vendor about the source. Look specifically for food items that are unusual in their color, or items you don’t recognize. A lot of the time, this is a good indicator that the produce was grown locally, as mentioned above.

Courtesy of Shop Cedros.
Courtesy of Shop Cedros.

Restaurants

Because it’s trendy right now, many of your favorite eateries will want to brag about buying local, so check their social media or ask the staff.  Two of our favorite vegan/vegetarian spots that source locally are Wild Living Foods in Downtown L.A. and Vital Root in Denver.

 

 

Katie Jeddeloh

Gastronomy Content Contributor

Katie Jeddeloh is a third year undergrad at St. Olaf College where she studies English and Women's and Gender Studies. Katie is an earth enthusiast and poet, and she loves growing, cooking, and talking about food.