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We have all had to adjust our schedules and lifestyles due to the ongoing pandemic, but that does not mean we have to sacrifice the way we eat. Now more than ever, there is a push to support local food businesses and help keep them afloat. Eating local is a concept you may have heard, but what if I told you that choosing to do so is better for your health, the economy, and the environment? Take the journey with me below to learn more about how you can make a difference in your community while maintaining a healthy, nourishing lifestyle.

What does eating local mean?

According to Edible Northeast Florida, the concept has a couple definitions. For some, it means eating food that is grown and sourced close to where you identify as your home. For others, local food is associated with naturals and organics that are sold through local grocers, restaurants, or handcrafted food-makers. Both definitions  point to supporting more farmer’s markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and small food businesses while being conscious of where your food comes from and how it was taken care of.

How does eating local improve your health?

For starters, eating local shows an overall love and appreciation for the true nourishment food can bring us. It may seem simple, but food is natural medicine for our bodies and we react to what we put in. When food is locally sourced, it means the processing and handling of it is limited. It comes straight from the farm, grower, or food creator in your community, eliminating any excessive transportation methods where it tends to lose a lot of its quality. Virtua Health confirms that food loses most of its essential nutrients 24 hours after it is picked, nutrients that our bodies need. The fresher it is and the more nutrients we consume, the happier and healthier we become.

How is eating local better for my community?

It’s no secret that supporting small businesses upholds economic stability, especially for small towns such as my hometown in Berkeley Heights, NJ. However, developing relationships with small business owners also creates a sense of community and trust. Having a solid community is what makes us human; and we all want to feel safe and secure surrounded in a caring environment. Knowing the hands that have prepared your food establishes genuine connections that are otherwise lost when mostly shopping online and in supermarkets.

What does eating local do for the environment?

Local food growers and creators figure out ways to be more sustainable than big factory farms and distributors. This includes the fact that more local and USDA organic growers do not use harmful chemicals or pesticides on their farms. Synthetic chemicals are actually prohibited for use on organics and many small farms follow suit. Using less chemicals on the food we consume is better for the environment and leaves less of an impact on farmland. Also, as mentioned before, transporting food requires the use of tons of fossil fuels a year. It is estimated that produce in North America travels an average of 1,500 miles from the source to the point of sale. This contributes to an overwhelming amount of the CO2 emissions added into the atmosphere. Therefore, choosing to eat local will help contribute to eliminating the need for such requirements and helps support a safer environment overall.

Eating local is a thread that pulls us all together; it supports our communities, environment, and upholds our overall health. Next time you are wondering what to make for dinner, try choosing to take a trip downtown to find your closest farmer’s markets and small food businesses. Together, we can redefine our food system and partake in the movement to best support ourselves and the planet at large. And whether you are interested in trying local food from diverse food creators, or making it, you can join the Chef Plates app or Diner Plates app to be a part of the local movement.

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