Why eat local?

10 Reasons Why Eating Locally is Best

If you need some encouragement to eat more local food, check out these top ten reasons why eating locally is great for your community, your health, and the environment.

1. Local food supports the local economy

"Thank you for supporting a Ballarat regional farm - Locally grown vegetables" reads a sign thanking shoppers for buying local food

When you buy your fruit and veg direct from the farmer, more of your money stays in our community.

When you shop locally, the money you spend stays right here in Ballarat and gets recirculated in the local community. Local food businesses employ local people, buy goods and services from other local businesses, and pay local rates and taxes. Three times as much of your money stays in the community when you shop with a local retailer!

2. Local food tastes better

When food comes from nearby, it doesn’t have to spend as long travelling or sitting in storage.  Fruit and veg you buy at the farmers market are usually picked just the day before; local bakeries bake on the day rather than importing half-baked loaves from halfway around the world; local meat is butchered close to where it’s sold, so spends less time sitting around in a plastic tray. If you’re used to stale, tasteless supermarket food your tastebuds will sing with joy at the flavour of local produce!

3. It’s more nutritious, too

The more processed your food is, and the longer it sits on a shelf, the less nutritious it is.  Not only does fresh produce start to lose vitamins the minute it’s picked, but food that’s optimised for cheap mass production, easy transportation and long shelf life often contains additives that aren’t so good for you.  The closer we get to the source of our food, the fresher and less processed it is. When our food is full of nutrients, we feel healthier, have more energy, and boost our immune systems – just to mention a few of the benefits of healthier food.

nanna's brand berries, which were recalled for containing bacteria that cause hepatitis. Local food limits the range of such food scares.

These berries, subject of a recall in 2015, were sourced from China and Chile, processed in a factory in China, and distributed to supermarkets all over Australia. People in six Australian states came down with Hepatitis A after eating them.

4. Local food naturally limits food safety scares

Remember the nationwide frozen berry recall just over a year ago, where berries sourced from all round the world, processed in a factory in China, and distributed to supermarkets Australia-wide were infected with hepatitis A? Industrial farming and processing create environments where disease can spread worldwide. Not only are less intensive farming methods less likely to breed bugs, but shorter supply chains and local delivery areas also limit the scope of food safety scares.

5. It’s climate friendly

The jury’s out on whether food miles (the distance your food travels from farm to plate) produces less carbon.  While it takes a lot of fuel to transport a shipload of bananas around the world, it doesn’t cost much per banana.  But transportation isn’t the only part of the food system that produces greenhouse gases.  The destruction of carbon-storing forests for farming, the use of fossil fuel based artificial fertilisers (emitting nitrous oxide, a very potent greenhouse gas), and the huge amount of wasted food produced by industrial-scale farming, distribution and retail (emitting methane) all contribute to climate change.  Local, sustainable agriculture can have much lower impacts.

6. Local food reduces waste

If you grew a homegrown tomato and it wasn’t perfect, perhaps a slightly funny shape or a mark on its skin, would you throw it out? Of course not! Yet supermarket chains waste thousands of tonnes of produce that doesn’t meet their standards for size, colour, or uniformity.  Farmers who supply the supermarkets can find that their entire crop is wasted in favour of imports from interstate or overseas. Exclusive supply contracts mean they have no alternative way to recoup their losses. On the other hand, if you buy direct from local farmers, you’re more likely to appreciate a bit of variety and character in your fruit and veg.

7. Local food has more seasonal variety

Food can become monotonous when the same ingredients, looking and tasting exactly the same, are available year round. Supermarket packaging and refrigeration, not to mention imports from all around the world, mean that you can have asparagus and strawberries, chestnuts and wild mushrooms any time you want them.

Yet asparagus and strawberries taste sweeter in late spring (around November in Victoria), not only because they are fresh from the farm but also because of the added flavour of anticipation.  The first juicy zucchini in summer, autumn’s fresh pears and walnuts from the shell, or winter’s hearty root veg and frost-resistent greens all taste better for being eaten with the seasons.  If you grow your own or buy from farmers nearby, your food will take on an extra seasonal savour.

8. It helps kids learn where food comes from

One third of Australian kids don’t know where food come from.  A recent study shows they don’t know that milk and cheese come from cows, or that tomatoes grow on vines.  Not only that, but most of them prefer processed foods, and parents are worried about their kids food choices.

Growing a garden, picking fruit in season, raising chooks in your backyard, visiting farm stands, or taking kids to the market on a weekend can help kids understand their food, leading to healthier eating habits throughout their lives.

Food Is Free laneway sign and herbs growing in a pot - local food for free in central Ballarat

Ballarat’s Food Is Free Laneway helps local residents share and support each other.

9. Local food helps you connect

One of the best indicators for health is to have strong relationships in your local community.  Knowing our neighbours, our local shopkeepers, or the people at the community centre or school can give us a boost every day and help support us through hard times.  Yet these days we have fewer connections than before, and many of our daily experiences – like shopping in a supermarket – make us feel isolated and disconnected.

When we shop local and get to know where our food comes from, we form a strong web of relationships with the people we meet, which is great for our health.

10. Local food builds resilient communities

In times of trouble, people have always relied on local food to get them through. During the second World War, Britain couldn’t rely on imports so they mobilised the whole country to grow Victory Gardens – which, along with rationing, improved their nutrition to the best it had ever been!  Today’s challenges are different, but the more food options we have, the better we are able to withstand climate change, economic upheaval, natural disasters or whatever else the twenty-first century might throw at us.

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