Purchasing locally grown foods cuts down on the fossil fuels required to transport the food, and also cuts down on the energy needed for refrigeration during the transportation process. The term "Food miles" refer to the distance a food item travels from the farm to your home. The food miles for items in the grocery store are, on average, 27 times higher than the food miles for goods bought from local sources. In the U.S., the average grocery store's produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between the farm where it was grown and your refrigerator. About 40% of our fruit is produced overseas and, even though broccoli is grown all over the country, the broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average of 1,800 miles to get there. Notably, nine percent of our red meat comes from foreign countries, some as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Our food is trucked across the country, hauled in freighter ships over oceans, and flown around the world. A tremendous amount of fossil fuel is burned to transport foods such long distances, releasing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants that contribute to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air and sea pollution. The refrigeration required to keep our fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling during their long journeys burn up even more fossil fuel. In contrast, local and regional food systems produce 17 times less CO2.
The Modern Local Food Movement: A Timeline
The modern local food movement gained notoriety in 2005 when four women invited community members to pledge only to eat foods grown within the San Francisco Bay foodshed. These women coined themselves as “locavores,” and take credit for starting the grassroots local food movement. In 2006 Michael Pollans, The Omnivore's Delimma hit the NY Times Best seller list. Followed shortly after by Barbara Kingsolvers top selling Animal Vegetable Miracle. A couple years later, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon challenged themselves only to eat foods grown within 100 miles of their home in British Columbia. They coined their experiment “The 100 Mile Diet” and launched a book and a website that discuss their experiments and invites other people to also take the local challenge. Today its almost impossible to pick up a magazine or newspaper that doesn't contain an article or a section devoted to eating locally!
Happy Earth Day,