The Power of Eating Local: Benefits and How to Get Started



Imagine a world where your food travels fewer miles than your morning commute. Eating local makes this a reality. We have gotten so used to being able to get something the next day, when ordered on Amazon, so it may seem like purchasing locally may not even matter. I think it does. Eating local offers benefits for your family’s health, the environment, and the community you live in.

This blog post explores the advantages of eating local and provides practical tips on how to incorporate more locally-sourced foods into your family’s diet.

Benefits of Eating Local

There are many benefits to eating locally, meaning the food you eat is sourced locally. This does not mean that everything consumed needs to be produced locally, but just making the effort to eat some local foods can have significant impacts on your family’s health, the environment, and your community.

Health Benefits

  • Freshness: Local produce is often fresher and more nutrient-dense because it is harvested at peak ripeness. Produce begins to lose nutrients within 24 hours of harvesting, so buying locally may mean you can consume the most nutrient-dense version of whatever you are buying. It’s important to note that all produce has nutritional benefits, whether it’s fresh, frozen, local, or non-local.
    Additionally, fresher produce tastes better. This can mean sweeter, juicier, and tastier foods to serve your family. For kids, this can make all the difference when introducing them to new foods. Think of a sweet, juicy strawberry from a fresh basket at the farmer’s market vs. a store-bought one pulled from those plastic clamshell packages that have traveled from another country thousands of miles away.
  • Seasonality: Eating seasonal foods ensures a diverse and balanced diet throughout the year. We want to eat a variety of plant foods, and sometimes the change in seasons can push us to mix up what we eat. When eating local, you notice and adapt to the changes that each season brings.
    When it comes to feeding kids, similar to the idea of serving fresh produce, serving what’s in season can make a difference in flavor and kids' acceptance of foods. Foods not in season locally either have to travel a far distance from where they are in season or are kept in cold storage during the off-season and added to store shelves for those who want them year-round. Apples are an example here. They are harvested in late summer to fall, so the ones in grocery stores in spring have been sitting in cold storage for nine months. They are still good but may not be as flavorful as the ones purchased in the fall.
  • Minimal Processing: Local foods often undergo less processing, preserving their nutritional value and natural flavors. Extending the shelf life of foods can include temperature and humidity control as well as proper packaging. Some foods are picked unripe then exposed to gas to help ripen after transport or treated with antimicrobial treatments.

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduces Carbon Footprint: Locally-sourced food travels shorter distances, contributing to less pollution and fewer carbon emissions. Even if you don’t buy from someone in your town, buying from growers in your county or state can still cut down travel by thousands of miles.
  • Sustainable Practices: Many local farmers use sustainable farming methods. These practices promote soil health, boost biodiversity, and protect pollinators, which are essential for healthy ecosystems.
  • Less Packaging: Buying local can reduce the need for excessive packaging, thereby decreasing waste. Lots of local foods, especially produce, are sold at farm stands without packaging.

Economic Benefits

  • Job Creation: Supporting local agriculture and food businesses creates jobs.
  • Creates a More Resilient Local Economy: Buying local food keeps your money in the community and is more likely to circulate within the local economy, fostering economic growth. Thriving local food systems can lead to stronger, more resilient communities.

How to Eat and Support Local

  • Visit Farmers Markets: Make a habit of visiting your local farmers' market to buy fresh produce, dairy, meats, and artisanal products. Engage with the vendors to learn more about their practices and products.
  • Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): This is essentially a subscription to get yummy, locally grown, seasonal products in your community. You purchase a share of the farm’s harvest and pick up your box on a regular basis. Many will give you a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, but some also have eggs, dairy, meats, or specialty items. This is a great way to learn to cook and prepare new foods and understand what foods are in season in your area.
  • Shop at Co-ops or Stores that Stock Local Products: Check out your local grocery stores to see if they bring in and prioritize local products. By shopping there, you contribute to the practice of supporting local growers and vendors. You may also have co-ops in your town which you can join to receive benefits and support your local food network.
  • Grow Your Own Food: This is a great way to have the freshest produce, where you can pick and eat right away! There are many options, from garden beds to vertical gardens to indoor hydroponic growing systems. If you live where the outdoor growing season is short, try growing more things indoors. Whatever your space or budget limitations, there is usually something that will work for you. You can even find a community garden to learn from and share with others.
    I love this idea, especially with kids. Growing your own food helps children understand and appreciate where food comes from. It also piques their interest in more foods and makes them more adventurous when it comes to trying new foods.

As you can see, there are many benefits to eating local foods—from your family’s health to environmental sustainability to your community’s well-being. And it’s something you can personalize for yourself. If you want to live off the land and only eat what you grow, that’s wonderful, but you can also do something more realistic in the world we live in: choose to shop at local farmers’ markets to buy produce, support local bakers or ranchers, eat at restaurants that source their ingredients locally, or grow a small amount of your own produce during your growing season.


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