Why is local food so important?
Taste and nutrition
Two of the most important aspects of eating local food are improved taste and nutrition. Food grown locally typically tastes better, as it’s eaten soon after harvest. Local food is allowed to ripen on the plants and in the fields without additional chemical aid. (Compare the taste of a just-picked, dark-red garden tomato in August with a pink January one and you’ll be amazed at the difference!)
Moreover, local food is harvested at the peak of the season, making it more nutritious. While someone may be expecting a wallop of vitamin C after eating an orange, that doesn’t always hold true. When a piece of fruit is harvested out of season and then shipped over many miles, the nutrient content deteriorates. Buying locally not only provides better tasting and more nutritious food, but allows individuals to enjoy seasonal food diversity.
Supporting local businesses can enhance the local economy. When we buy food from sources outside of our region, we don’t support our local economy, we become dependent upon shipping methods that cover lengthy distances, and we don’t have as much control over what we purchase.
Food purchased at a standard grocery store can provide as little as 3.5 cents of every food euro to the farmer. The rest of the money goes to food processors, suppliers and marketers.
Eating local helps to keep small farmers alive and provides more options to the consumer.
Exporting and importing foods is becoming commonplace and this takes more energy. While the specific number of miles a food travels has been debated by some, it doesn’t take much investigation to establish where a food was grown. If you live in Luxembourg and buy apples grown in New Zealand, your food has traveled thousands of miles. If you live in Trier and buy tomatoes and avocados from Mexico, your food traveled a long way. If you buy a mango from Ecuador and you live in Ecuador, you’re a local food stud.
Food production depends heavily on energy and oil for its production, processing, packaging, and distribution. The cost and availability of oil either directly or indirectly affects all food system inputs, including other forms of energy.
Food safety is an often overlooked aspect of local eating. When we buy food from local sources, the opportunity for contamination is diminished. Food contamination often occurs on massive industrialized farms that have livestock nearby. With controlled farming systems and a reduction in the number of “hands” touching food, the potential of food-borne illness is minimized.
In addition, food safety regulations and enforcement may not be as stringent in the region of origin as they are where you live.
When buying directly from local farms you can ask about production methods. A close interaction between producer and consumer also means that producers feel more responsibility to the people they feed.