How far did your food travel to get to you?
Choosing foods grown closer to home makes for more nutritious and better tasting foods, reducing air pollutants and helping the local economy.
September 20, 2012 - Author: Becky Henne, Michigan State University Extension
As you sit down to your next meal, consider how many miles the food you are eating had to travel to arrive on your plate. Was it food grown locally or on some farm a continent or two away? According to a July 2003 study done by Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems, produce grown locally in Iowa traveled an average of 56 miles to market. While at the same time, conventionally-grown food traveled an average 1,494 miles to get to market. The study also reported that produce “traveled eight times (pumpkins) to 92 times (broccoli) farther than the local produce to reach the points of sale.”
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in 2007 the typical American meal had ingredients that on average originated from at least five foreign countries. Transporting this food to the U.S. requires several modes of transportation and the accompanying release of carbon emissions. Selecting food that has traveled a shorter distance reduces the demand for food that requires the long distance transportation air pollutants. In a study that the NRDC highlights in their November 2007 issue, when emissions from food grown locally was combined, it produced fewer carbon dioxide emissions than the import of one imported product.
Eating and purchasing food from the community supports your community by supporting the farms that grow the food and the businesses the farm in turn uses. The food less traveled is typically more nutritious and favored by many chefs for better taste. Chef Denene Vincent of Le Chat Gourmet attempts to source her food locally in order to find the best tasting ingredients.
The health tip for today is to decrease the miles your food travels and increase the distance your body travels.