Locally sourced foods account for only 7% of fresh food in Australia’s food market. That means that most of what we put on our plates in Australia has travelled a long way to get to us.
For this reason, not only are we uncertain of the path it has taken to get to our mouths, but we are also uncertain about the farms in which it came from. That leaves the lingering question of, what is in the food that we eat and is it even good for us?
Local food systems play a fundamental role in strengthening our economy. The phrase local food systems refer to foods that are part of a small supply chain. They are locally sourced, grown and processed within a reasonable locale. Eating local benefits not only our community by putting money back into the local economy, but it is also healthier for us and it has a more beneficial impact on our environment.
Why Eat Local?
Here are 5 reasons why you should buy and eat local:
- Local foods are better for your body.
We all strive to be healthier on a daily basis. We might make it a point to run, exercise, surf, count calories and even limit the types of foods that we eat (i.e. processed). However, it would seem as though not much thought is ever put into specifically selecting foods from our region to help improve our health. Local food is packed full of more nutrients that your body craves in order to be healthy. With less time spent travelling between farm to table, local foods have less time for the nutrient value to decrease. Meaning more of the good stuff your body needs.
- Local foods taste better.
When food is sourced locally, it is able to be harvested at its prime. This means no early harvesting to allow for days to even weeks of travel time and cold storage. Instead, it is allowed to mature to the point that it should, which usually means that the food will be available for purchase within 24 hours of leaving the farm. This results in food that is much more flavourful, juicy, nutrient rich and overall just much tastier.
Additionally, eating local means that you will eat with the seasons. That allows for fresher and more flavourful selections, of which will be made available to you at lower costs.
- Buying local supports your local economy.
When you buy local you are investing money that will inevitably be put back into the local economy. This means when you buy local you are not only supporting local farmers, but many other services and businesses within the community. Studies have demonstrated that when you buy locally $73 of every $100 that you spends stays in our local community. That is opposed to the mere $43 of every $100 when you buy imported foods.
- Buying local is environmentally responsible.
The longer that food has to travel to get to your plate the more emissions that are put into the earth’s atmosphere to get it there. CERES, in their Food Miles in Australia Report, demonstrated that a shopping basket that held just 29 common grocery items had already travelled a total of 70,000kms. That is the equivalent to two times around the earth! Buying locally sourced food also means that you are playing a hand in maintaining local greenspace and farmland around your community.
- Eating local is safer.
The more miles that have to be put between you and the food on your plate, is that much more of a chance that the food might become contaminated along the way. Food that is produced in foreign countries may undergo more than questionable standards with regards to handling, washing, harvesting and distributing. Not only that, but the standards are different when it comes to chemical usage.
When you buy from a local farmer’s market or stand, you are able to directly speak to the grower, handler and shipper of the foods that you are about to consume. That means that they are able to tell you exactly what went into each and every item that you are about to put on your and your family’ plate.
As the growing season starts to take full effect, you might think about where the food you are buying comes from. When you buy local you support your growing and thriving community, you help the environment and, more importantly, you are improving your health.
 “Why Is Local Important.” Local Harvest (website). Retrieved from http://www.localharvest.org.au/why-is-local-important/. Accessed on December 30, 2015.
 Ismall, H. (2015, May 28). “Localising Food Production: Urban Agriculture in Australia.” Future Directions International (website). Retrieved from http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/food-and-water-crises/2287-localising-food-production-urban-agriculture-in-australia.html. Accessed on December 29, 2015.
 “Local Food Economies.” Food Alliance (website). Retrieved from http://www.foodalliance.org.au/article/local-food-economies/. Accessed on December 29, 2015.