For a country with an unstable economy, eating food grown locally is the best way to increase the quality of life and economic health of the area.
How local is local? A foodshed (similar to a watershed) is an area within which all your food originates, say, a radius of 50 miles from your home. Eating within your foodshed stimulates the local economy, as well as being healthy and enjoyable. By buying produce grown by farmers in your area, you are guaranteeing the longevity of local agriculture, as well as supporting that economy.
Right now, most Americans‘ food travels 1,500 miles before landing on the shelves of your grocery store. Staying within your foodshed, the path between the field and the table is much shorter. Foodsheds support sustainability and environmental awareness, as well as build community consciousness. Regional self-reliance improves food quality and economic security, with benefits to all involved - from growers to consumers.
As it stands now, most Americans have no idea where their food originates. With more and more produce grown during the off-season in other countries, almost zero percent of the average person‘s diet is local. We have evolved from Thomas Jefferson‘s vision of a self-sufficient, agrarian society to a society that buys frozen dinners and fruit from other countries. The problem is not that the United States is devoid of resources, but rather that we do not provide an adequate platform for this philosophy to be easily accessible.
As a society, we need to recognize the health and economic benefits of eating locally grown food, and support this with environmental legislation, farmers markets, and organic and agricultural education for children. The benefits of foodsheds and eating foods in season are far-reaching and affect consumer health, the economy, local agriculture, even oil consumption. (Transportation costs decrease when your apple is a local Mac in September, not a Gala from New Zealand in April.)
But on another, more fundamental level, foodsheds support human interaction and community, things that tend to get pushed aside in our society. Supporting foodsheds is, in turn, supporting a society built on environmental consciousness and consumer responsibility, and, more deeply, supporting community awareness.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.