Saving the World, One Healthy Food at a Time!

Benefits of Locally Grown Produce

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By Erika Ichinose Pijai, MS, RD, CDN

  • Local food travels fewer miles to land on your plate: “Local foods” do not have a specific definition, but typically they are grown within a 100-mile radius (some even say up to 225 miles). The farther the distance, the more energy and gasoline required to reach your plate. Buying local will save on energy costs and valuable non-renewable resources.
  • Local food tastes better: The crops are picked at peak freshness, and farm-made products, such as cheeses and jams, are hand-crafted for optimum flavor. Food traveling from far away is older, because of the long distances traveled in trucks or planes and the lengthy periods of time sitting in warehouses and supermarket shelves before finally reaching your table. The food is also jostled around in the shipping process, increasing the likelihood for bruising, spoilage, and an overall poorer quality. Local food tastes better because it is fresher and was grown or cultivated with the consumer in mind.
  • Local produce is more nutritious: The less time passing between farm and table, the fewer nutrients that are lost. Locally grown fruits and vegetables contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants because they are picked at their peak freshness, transported shorter distances and sold directly to the consumer. You may also find that your kids are more willing to eat fruits and vegetables when they are so much more appealing. Here are 10 tips to encourage your kids to eat healthier.
  • Local produce stays fresh longer: Since the produce was picked the day before, it will last longer in your refrigerator (if you can hold off from devouring it!).
  • Local produce is safe: Local farmers are not anonymous, so they take their responsibility to the consumer more seriously than a faceless conglomerate might. The risk for major bacteria outbreaks such as e. coli or hepatitis A are greatly reduced with locally-grown produce when you know your farmer and his or her farm operation. Learn the basics of food safety when cooking with kids!
  • Local food preserves genetic diversity: Conventional large-scale farming operations typically practice mono-cropping, which greatly limits plant varieties and increases the risk of crop devastation and/or food-borne illness outbreaks. On the other hand, smaller local farms often grow a variety of crops and rotate them to provide a long harvest season with an array of different colors and flavors.
  • Local produce benefit the environment and wildlife: Well-managed farms conserve fertile
soil and maintain clean water supplies in our communities. The farm also provides a habitat for wildlife.
  • Local food connects you to the land through the farmers who grow your food: There is something exciting about engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Talking to the very farmer who grew and picked your food gives you insight into the relationship between the seasons, land, and food.
  • Teach your kids about the benefits of locally grown food. Bring them to the local farmer’s market to connect them with ‘real food’ and have them talk to the farmers to appreciate who is growing their food. You can even help develop a farm-to-table program at their school!
  • Buy seasonal. Buy local as much as possible. Your local farmers’ market is an excellent place to start!

Erika Ichinose Pijai, MS, RD, CDN, is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Science degree in Nutrition Education from Columbia University. She is a past Program Coordinator for the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program at Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC, where she trained and supervised both staff and volunteers to conduct paperless nutrition curriculum and cooking demonstrations featuring locally grown, fresh produce at farmers’ markets across NYC. She has served as a member of the Advisory Committee to SuperKids Nutrition Inc.

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