Why Buy Local?

Although Globalization may be the wave of the future, it is not the best choice for health. Here’s why…

Let’s say it’s winter time and you are in the grocery store looking for fresh vegetables and fruits. In many regions, a good variety of produce is not readily available and so the method of bringing in tomatoes or oranges in during the cold months is to ship them from different parts of the world who can grow these plants year-round. Why would this be a problem? One reason is that having to ship all these foods all over the globe uses up more fuel. This drives up the price of petrol and pollutes the environment. Another issue is that in shipping these fruits and vegetables all over the globe, merchants are finding that much produce is perishing more quickly than they are able to turn a profit. In order to make sure their produce does not perish before it makes its arrival in the store, many decide to grow plants in an altered environment where the plant has been modified somehow to survive days of travel and stocking on the grocery store shelf. Is it safe to eat “altered” food?

In addition to genetically and otherwise modified foods, toxins and pollution from shipment and travel adversely affect the produce being sent. If these toxins and chemicals affect the produce, does it affect your health? Indeed. Eating local produce cuts down on toxins and pollution on fruits and vegetables because the food has traveled less distance to get to your table. That’s a happy thought.

The notion of eating fruits and vegetables in season is also becoming more and more understood by local communities. In season varieties allow the local farms to receive your support when you buy, reduces pollution from shipment, and provides the opportunity to try new foods and seasonal recipes that you may have otherwise overlooked. It tastes better too! Buying in season is more sustainable and better for your health as during different times of the year, your body needs different types of foods. Those needs come and go with the season, and thus eating in season makes health sense.

In Idaho, many crops do not grow in the winter time. So the shipping of produce from many other locations is something grocery stores do in order to provide a full menu for their customers. But, many local farmers are now using winter green houses and hot houses. This should reduce the need to ship in from other locations. Unfortunately, the demand of customers dictates that we have anything we want anytime we want it. Thus, the stores are shipping in anything and everything all the time.

Alternatives might include adjusting our consumption of certain types of produce during times of the year when they are not locally available. Some people make use of the available produce during peak seasons by canning, jarring, drying, or freezing their food. Although these activities take a little more time and effort, you are conserving in many ways by making use of the available produce when it is fresh and preserving it safely for later use.

Today on NPR this very topic is being discussed. For more information about why shipping produce around the globe can be harmful, go check out Talk of The Nation’s dialogue on Science Friday about Eating Local, Thinking Global .

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