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Why Shop and Eat Local

By Lisa Peterson, MS
Extension: Nutrition & Wellness

Summer is the best time of year to enjoy seasonal and local fruits and vegetables! Support your neighbors by shopping at the farmers’ market! It is a great idea to bring your bags or wagons, cash, and maybe sunblock with this current central Illinois heat! Why eat and buy locally? Food purchased locally positively affects the community, health, and environment.
One reason to eat and buy locally is to protect the environment. Most of the food sold in the grocery store travels 1,500 miles to the grocery store. Food produced and purchased locally reduces transportation costs from farm to fork, reducing air pollution, fossil fuel burned, and greenhouse gas emissions. Another great reason is to support the local economy. Locally purchased foods help keep the money within the community. Research shows, on average, 65% of your dollar stays within the community when buying food locally, as opposed to only 40% when shopping at larger chain stores.
Visiting a local farmers’ market is just one way to learn and trust where food comes from. Going to a farmers’ market and purchasing food from a local grower is an opportunity to discover how local foods are grown and processed and additional suggestions for preparation directly from the producer. By purchasing food locally, you can talk to the grower and know precisely what is in the foods you and your family are eating. Eating fresh food from a farmers’ market or local growers can also replace foods that require more preservatives that can be high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The longer fresh produce sits after harvest, the greater decrease in nutritional value. After fresh produce is harvested, vitamins such as A, C, and E begin to deteriorate. When preparing fresh produce from a local farmer, the food is closer to its optimal nutritional state than the products that require processing and shipping.
Food safety can also play a role in why eating locally is a sensible option. Purchasing locally reduces the distance and time food travels from farm to fork, reducing the risk of contamination. Washing produces at home and storing fruits and vegetables in the correct location is still recommended to lengthen shelf life and reduce the risk of potentially getting sick.
Lastly, growing your food is the ultimate form of eating locally! Not sure how? Contact the local extension office, our Horticulture educator, or a local master gardener who is happy to assist. Research indicates gardening is not only a moderate-intensity exercise but also a scientifically proven form of stress relief, recovery from mental fatigue, restores concentration, and improves productivity. Looking for recipes for some of your finds at the farmers market or looking for ideas on how to keep your food safe until winter? University of Illinois Extension is happy to answer your question and send delicious recipes to you! Head out to the farmers market this week, support the local community, get to know the growers, and eat in season.

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