Going Local: Organic and Locally-Grown Food

3 minutes

eat local organic
eat local organic

Image courtesy of Alice Henneman

The U.S. is known for its abundance of fast food options such McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King and In-N-Out Burger. In part because of this, as of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Considering this staggering statistic, there has been a trend across the United States to exercise more and eat healthier to lower obesity rates. One way in which people are changing their lifestyles is to eat healthier foods. More specifically, many people are consciously choosing to eat organic and locally grown foods. In a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was estimated that in 2008, the farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion, which is approximately 1.6% of the U.S. market for agricultural products. This rate is only expected to rise with time.

Why Buy Local?

Locally-sourced foods are often seen as being fresher and higher in quality than foods that are more readily available and mass produced. Purchasing local foods supports local farms that use particular production practices that are perceived as being more environmentally sustainable. Buying locally is also acclaimed to provide a broader and better variety of products, reduce carbon footprint and increase natural/organic production of products. In following the locally grown purchasing culture, people tend to purchase products that are natural or locally labeled, organically certified, hormone- or antibiotic-free, or free-range animal products. People are thus steering away from foods that are genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides. It is assumed that there is more transparency and accountability in knowing where and how the food is grown when following these guidelines.

Political Moves Toward Healthy Eating

United States First Lady Michelle Obama created "Let's Move," an initiative which teaches families safe practices to raise a healthier generation of kids. In support of this initiative, the First Lady grew the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's (First Lady during World War II) victory garden. The United States Department of Agriculture supported her initiative through their publication of  "10 Tips for Affordable Vegetables and Fruits" in which they recommend going to a local farmer's market to purchase seasonal produce or planting your own garden for fresh, inexpensive additions to meals. Michelle Obama has also challenged America to put 6,000 salad bars into schools across the country. As a result, a coalition formed by the Food Family Farming Foundation, United Fresh Produce Association Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, and Whole Foods Market launched the "Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools" initiative. The stress to provide healthier food options to children has led to a healthy eating revolution, in which purchasing locally grown foods or planting backyard gardens has become the norm.

Farmer's Markets in the U.S.

Locally grown foods can be found in different outlets across the United States. The most popular organic market is Whole Foods, which is known as the first nationally certified organic grocer in the United States, with locations across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Another supermarket, Walmart, proposed a goal to double the amount of locally grown produce it sells in the U.S. by 2015. Local Harvest is an online tool you can use to look up your closest source of sustainably grown food in your area. In New York City, an organization called Grow NYC operates 54 Greenmarket farmers' markets throughout the five boroughs.

Is Local Actually Better?

Although Whole Foods is praised as being a certified organic market, most people choose to purchase their produce at local markets instead due to the high costs of organic foods. Most people cannot afford to purchase organic foods all the time, as they can cost anywhere between 50%-100% more than non-organic foods. Some fruits that should be bought organic include peaches, apples, celery, nectarines, strawberries, potatoes and lettuce. This is because these fruits and vegetables are usually sprayed with pesticides, which is not favorable when consumed. Foods that can be bought at conventional markets and do not necessarily need to be purchased at organic markets, include papayas, mangos, broccoli, cabbage, bananas, corn, and avocadoes. These produce items are known to have the least pesticide residues. Thus, before you jump on the organic food bandwagon, be sure to check whether the foods you buy often should be bought at your conventional neighborhood market or at an organic grocer so you can save your health and your wallet.

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