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VCU HR Well-Being blog

Giving VCU employees the wellness resources they need to be healthy both on and off campus

Do you work on the MCV Campus? Every Wednesday from 10 am to 12 pm you can purchase fresh, locally-grown produce every week courtesy of Shalom Farms. You can find them at the entrance of North Hospital. Check it out! [View Image]

8 BENEFITS OF EATING LOCAL FOOD

1. Local food is fresher.

Local food is fresher, tastes better and is likely more nutritious. At a farmer’s market, most local produce has been picked within the last 24 hours, ensuring it is ripe and at its peak nutrient-density. In contrast, most supermarket produce was picked days or weeks prior to reaching the grocery store shelf. As soon as a food is harvested its nutrient content begins to deteriorate, specifically vitamins C, E, A and some B. Of course, produce that has traveled still has nutritional value, but the fresher the fruit or vegetable the more nutrient-dense it will be. So although the apples flown in from Argentina might look great on the grocery store shelf, the ones from the local farm are far fresher and better for you.

2. Supports your seasonal needs.

When you eat locally, you eat with the seasons, and the cycle of seasonal produce is perfectly designed to support your health. If you get back to basics and consider how we ate before the modern grocery store, we simply ate what was available to us at that time of year. Eating seasonally is the most natural way to eat, and one of the most beneficial to our bodies. In the peak of summer, our bodies require cooling foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and berries to help us handle the elements, while in the dark and cold days of winter we need rich and warming high-fat foods, root vegetables, and fermented foods. Eating seasonally also helps to avoid eating the same thing all year round, which is less than ideal for your health. Our local seasons provides the ideal foods for our body’s natural needs based on our geographic location.

3. Helps you discover new foods.

Eating well can get boring if you stick to the basics; there are only so many times you can eat oatmeal for breakfast and chicken with broccoli for dinner. For instance, how many varieties of tomato can you find at your local grocery store? Maybe 3? Local farmers are keeping nearly 300 varieties of tomatoes alive every single year, leaving little room for boredom. How often do you eat garlic scapes, kohlrabi or kobocha squash? Whether you chose to visit your local farmers market or join a CSA, eating seasonally forces you to try to foods and be more creative in the kitchen.

4. Helps you eat mindfully.

It’s easy to scarf down a microwavable meal when you know nothing about where it came from, who produced it, and how it got to your plate. However, when you shop locally you are more connected to the food you eat; knowing who produced it, what farm it came from, and exactly how it got from farm to fork. It’s the same way mom’s homemade tomato sauce evokes a very different feeling and connection than the stuff you grab at the drug store while buying your toothpaste. When it comes to eating mindfully, there are many more components than just what we are eating, the who, where, when, how and why are just as important, if not more. Shopping and eating locally make you more connected to your food and the impacts it has on your body.

 5. Produces less waste.

Because buying local shortens the distribution chain, forcing food directly from the farm to fork, less waste is produced in the process. Not only does buying local mean less packaging via transportation and shipping, but it also means less environmental waste from pollution and less food waste in the process as well. Buying a CSA from a local farm or shopping at the weekly farmer’s market means next to no food packaging at all, ensures food was moved directly from a local farm to you, minimizing emissions and food waste in the process.

6. Supports local business.

When you buy food in the grocery store most of the cost you incur goes to the transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, and marketing of that food, and not necessarily to the farmers themselves. When you buy from a local farmer, farmers market, or local shop you are supporting your local community, and your money goes back into producing more local food for you.

7. Supports sustainable agriculture.

Eating locally encourages diversification of local agriculture and crop variety. This, in turn, reduces the reliance on monoculture; single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils. The reality is that our food is only as nutrient-dense as the soil in which it is grown; although strawberries are known to contain high levels of vitamin C, these levels are heavily dependent on the quality of the soil in which they are grown, and their level of freshness.

8.  Gives power to the consumer.

People have very strong opinions about the state of our food and agriculture systems, be it positive or negative, but the reality is that as a consumer you have a choice. If you choose not to grow, harvest and raise your own food, you vote with your dollar every single time you buy food. So, if you buy processed foods or imported foods you are creating more demand for these products. In contrast, if you buy local and demand local foods at your local grocery store, you are creating a very different and important demand. Every time you buy from a local farmer you have an opportunity to ask questions, learn about their farming practices and gain a better understanding of your food.

The Bottom Line

The benefits of eating local food are endless, the greatest being the connection it gives you to your food. It’s scary to think how far removed we have become from our food; many of us eat foods never knowing if they grew from a plant, tree, shrub or bush. The more you eat locally the more you are able to reconnect with food and recognize the importance of real food and how it impacts your body. By supporting local farmers today, you are ensuring that there will be local farms in your community tomorrow, and that is something that we can all agree is important.

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