The benefits of a local and seasonal diet.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about local eating. Books like The 100 Mile Diet, Food Matters and The Omnivore’s Dilemma have certainly brought the benefits of eating consciously to the forefront.
Reducing our environmental footprint is one of those benefits. Some studies show that even our most basic meals may have traveled between 2,400 and 4,000 kilometres to get to our table. According to Canadian writers Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who originated the 100 Mile Diet, the average Canadian meal “uses up to 17 times more petroleum products, and increases carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount, compared to an entirely local meal.”
Choosing to eat locally grown foods also supports community farms and the local economy. Consider this: a few years ago, CBC Radio reported that if the Greater Toronto Area could no longer import food, they would run out in only three days. A very good reason indeed to support farming in our communities!
While eating a 100% local diet may not be a practical approach for everyone all the time, efforts to increase awareness of where our food comes from can only help build healthier bodies and strong communities.
Eating more locally and seasonally means we have to get reacquainted with food from our youth – cabbage, turnip, carrots, and other root vegetables – especially in winter. The definition of seasonal also includes fresh foods that have been frozen, pickled, canned and preserved. All of these storage methods have seen a resurgence lately.
Eat local initiatives
Local foods tend to be fresher, tastier and more nutritious since they are picked ripe and are transported shorter distances. They can be cheaper too, which is important to most families these days.
Farmers’ markets or pick your own are good options for accessing local foods. Even some supermarkets are carrying and labeling local produce. Another option is to buy into a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) farm, which means paying upfront to get a share of what the farmer produces throughout the season. This is becoming an increasingly popular program that encourages the continuation of the farming tradition.
Of course, another way to enjoy fresh seasonal produce is to plant your own garden. Kids love to be involved in growing their own food and this really inspires them to eat healthier and be connected to their food source.
There are many other initiatives that bring awareness and education to the public about the possibilities of incorporating locally grown foods.
Area public health units sponsor nutrition programs like community gardens that help individuals put clean and safe local food on the table. Initiatives such as this ensure that everyone, no matter what their income level or whether they have property, has access to quality food while acquiring practical life skills.
Other organizations are coming together to explore ways to showcase local farmers/producers and encourage eating establishments to serve local foods as much as possible. Even the tourism industry is featuring local food to entice travelers.