The grocery store sells fruits and vegetables (eg. tomatoes) from many different places, such as Mexico, the United States, Europe, South America, and Ontario. Have you ever wondered which to choose and why?
All fruits and vegetables are healthy food choices. When you buy produce, you can also make choices that support the local economy at the same time. Look for produce that is grown in Ontario, or even closer to home. When you choose food that is grown locally, you are supporting our local farmers. It is also a more environmentally sustainable choice. Here are seven good reasons to buy locally grown food:
- Local food is fresh and tasty. Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It is sweet, loaded with flavour, and has not lost nutrients due to processing and shipping.
- Local food supports local farm families. Local farmers who sell directly to consumers or to local stores, markets, or institutions can get better prices for their food, which means that farm families can keep their farm operating.
- Local food builds a strong community. When you buy directly from the farmer, you are establishing a direct connection between those who grow food and those who eat it. Improved rural-urban links build understanding between consumers and producers, allowing us to support each other.
- Local food provides opportunity for learning about how food grows. Local farms often grow a variety of different foods to provide a long season of harvest, an array of colours, and excellent flavour. Buying foods locally also provides opportunities for research on foods that will thrive in changing climate conditions.
- Local food helps preserve farmland. Farmland will survive only as long as farms make money. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something to help preserve the land needed to help our community have access to food.
- Local food supports a clean environment. The average distance most food travels from the farm to your plate is about 2,400 km. This burns up a great deal of gas, which means more pollution and global warming. Food that is grown and sold locally travels a much shorter distance.
- Local food can be an important part of healthy eating. Buying food that is locally grown may encourage you to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, which is good for your health.
A vibrant farming community is part of a healthy community overall. Seek out locally produced food at your supermarket or farmers market. You can also buy fresh, nutritious foods directly from the farm. This provides the opportunity to get to know your local farmers better, and to purchase food when it is at its freshest.
If you are someone who spends time in your own vegetable garden, think of this slogan when you plant: “Grow a Row!” Grow an extra row of vegetables and at the end of the season, donate that row to the local food bank. There is always someone who would enjoy your fresh produce.
For more information on buying fresh produce and the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, contact the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit’s Health Action Line at 1-800-660-5853 or 613-345-5685 and ask to speak to a Registered Dietitian.
Article originally written by Ellen Desjardins, RD, M.Sc. and Kathy Lepp, RD, M.Sc., Public Health Nutritionists with the Waterloo Region Health Department, June 2002. Adapted for use by Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit.