The following Eat Local Challenge post is by Stephanie Hodges of The Nourished Principles, which combines nutrition and public health practices to encourage healthier individuals, communities, organizations, and schools.
This April is Eat Local Month here in Charleston, and I am thrilled to be a part of the movement to purchase foods from local producers. Supporting local farmers is something I strive to do year-round but given the Eat Local challenge I am a part of, I am really trying to step my game up and purchase as many local foods as possible!
There are numerous benefits of eating local. One is the economic benefit of purchasing local; sales of local foods in the US have nearly doubled from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014(1). Research shows that for every dollar spent on locally produced foods and their products, between $0.32 and $0.90 is returned to the local economy (2,3,4) . Another benefit is the environmental impact of purchasing locally. Locally-sourced food can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation due to the shorter distance the food travels. Consuming local foods may have added health benefits as well. Often, we are purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked to decreased risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease.
To show you #HowIEatLocal and how you can too, I’m sharing five ways I choose to eat local this month and the rest of the year as well!
We are extremely fortunate in South Carolina to have year-round farmers markets and a longer growing season than some states. I remember moving to Charleston in November and still going to the local farmers market in December where there were plenty of items to choose from. My favorite thing about farmers markets is building relationships with the growers: learning about where their farm is located, what they grow on the land, how long they have been in business, and so much more. It’s amazing to know that these farms have been in business for many generations and that’s what makes purchasing from them even more special. Looking for a farmers market or roadside market near you in South Carolina? Check out this map!
U-pick farms are one of my favorite ways to eat local. A few weeks ago, my husband and I traveled to a u-pick farm on their opening day of strawberry season. The field was FULL of strawberries, and we had filled two huge buckets in only 15 minutes. We chatted with the family who owned the farm about their farming operation and growing practices and learned that they also offer u-pick options in the summer for blueberries and blackberries. In addition to purchasing strawberries, we supported their farm by purchasing some of their homemade jam and apple butter as well. If there’s a u-pick farm near you, I encourage you to take a trip there, learn about the farm you are visiting, and take home as much produce as you can! Remember you can always freeze fruits and vegetables to enjoy them year-round!
When you are eating out at a restaurant, do you know where they purchase their food from? Is it a local farm or is it from somewhere out of state? One of the best ways to eat local is to support restaurants that purchase directly from farmers. The more we support these establishments, the more they can purchase from local producers. It may be difficult to know where they purchase their food from so you can always ask your server or a manager and often, they will indicate on the menu if an item contains locally purchased ingredients.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
I’ll admit I’m a little late to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) game but due to moves that usually always occur during the summer months, I could never commit to joining a CSA. A CSA is a community of individuals who agree to support local farmers by purchasing a share of the farm’s production over a certain period. CSA members receive regular deliveries of what is produced by the farm throughout the season. One option we have in Charleston is Community Supported Grocery (CSG), which is a fantastic way to support local growers AND Lowcountry Street Grocery’s mission of sustainable food equity. You can opt-in on the weeks you’d like to receive a box or sign up for a month of boxes which is exactly the type of flexibility I am looking for in a CSA. I also like that CSG publishes what will be in the boxes so that I can make my decision based on that, too. Many CSAs have options to hold boxes if you are out of town and some are even offering just a weekly pick up option so check out the ones in your area to find which works best for you and your family. Find a South Carolina CSA near you through the Certified SC website!
Grow your Own!
One of my favorite memories growing up in rural Southwest Virginia was harvesting from the garden we planted each year. Since then, I have always loved when I can grow my own food! This year, we planted a 24 feet by 4 feet raised bed with lots of fruits and vegetables, 2 blueberry bushes, 2 blackberry bushes, and a fig tree. We’re fortunate to have space for this, but you don’t need a huge backyard or hundreds of acres to grow your own food. You can grow fresh herbs, and even some small vegetables, in small pots indoors. No need for a trip to the grocery store when you can eat food straight from your backyard!
It doesn’t matter if you are new to eating local or you have been doing this for years, we can all do more to support local producers. That may mean purchasing from them at farmers markets, participating in a CSA, or eating at restaurants that serve local foods. I encourage you to get more involved with local agriculture in your community and tell your friends and family about how and why you eat local so that they can, too!
— Stephanie Hodges
Founder, Registered Dietitian
The Nourished Principles
- Vilsack, T. (2015). Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places. Retrieved from: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/07/1/tapping-economic-potential-local-food-through-local-foods-local-places.
- Meter,K. (2010, January). Learning How to Multiply. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD) 1(2), 9–12. doi:10.5304/jafscd.2010.012.014
- Jablonski, B. B. R., Schmit, T. M., and Kay, D. (2015). Assessing the Economic Impacts of Food Hubs to Regional Economies: A Framework Including Opportunity Cost. Retrieved from http://publications.dyson.cornell.edu/research/researchpdf/wp/2015/Cornell-Dyson-wp1503.pdf
- Martinez, S., M., Hand, M., Da Pra, S., Pollack, K., Ralston, T., Smith, S., . . . Low, S. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues.United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Report, Number 97.