You've heard that you should buy local food but what are the benefits of buying local food?
Guest post: Science In the Community Students, Western University
Can buying local food be more beneficial to our health and environment than importing our healthy foods?
The answer lies within, your opinion of the true cost of items, and importing food, for both the environment, and for the cost to our health.
Before we dive into the contents of this article, let’s start with the definition of nutrient density. Nutrient density is defined as the number of beneficial nutrients in a food product in proportion to its energy content, weight or amount of detrimental nutrients. Nutrient-dense food contains vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. Such examples of nutrient-dense products are: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, bean, nuts, and many others.
First, we begin to look at where most food is imported from to hear in Canada:
“In 2018, the top partner countries from which Canada Imports Food Products include the United States, France, Italy, Brazil and China.” -Stats Canada
Next, how much roughly does Canada import each year?
“Ontario is a net food importer, importing annually about $10 billion more than it exports, with roughly half of that products that we grow, store and process within the province” - ERL et al., 2014
List of most imported items here in Canada:
Just to name some.
When you read the list above, it is evident that the majority of your food at your local supermarket is imported from anywhere but here locally. Not only that, but the majority of those foods alone and the fruit produce could be created locally and in your are.
Did a study that looked at the potential for Canada to produce their own food, and not rely on the import system so much. What was found was important and shocking:
“A study from a McMaster University professor says increasing Ontario's local food supply would create thousands of more jobs in the province, including almost seven thousand in Hamilton, while benefiting the environment and making us healthier eaters” -CBC, 2015
With this study in mind, and the research found it is evident that Canada could produce locally, and save a lot of money and environmental problems and true cost waste on importing goods to Canada. When alternatively they could be locally produced here.
How Can We Support Local Food or Local Farmers?
Rather than providing you all with abstract details, we want to illustrate a real example of a company called FoodFund. FoodFund is a London-based company that ensures to reduce food waste that happens from imperfect fruits and vegetables by supporting local farmers and growers. If a fruit or vegetable does not pass a certain size or looks disfigured, many wholesale or big box stores reject those products or throw them away. Imagine working 16-18 hours every day to put food on your family’s table. Oftentimes, farmers and growers work these long hours through the growing season to ensure we have access to fresh fruit and veggies. If their yield isn’t pretty enough for store standards, or if they have too much on hand, they can go without compensation altogether. Such companies partner up with local growers to help ensure not only to help farmers with their compensation but also to reduce hunger and wastage of food that is only slightly misshapen.
Why is Local Produce More Expensive?
- Typically grown on large scale farms that just grow one or two crops
- These farms are owned by large companies who then package the products
- They grow food directly for large grocery store chains
- Sell directly to wholesalers who distribute products around Ontario
- Increased price reflects the shorter growing season in Ontario compared to the longer season for the large farms in California
- The more of one crop a farmer can produce the more cost of production will decrease, so buyer pays less and in the end so does the consumer → This isn’t the case for local producers
- Ontario Farmers are also less inclined to use pesticides and often manually keep bugs away → increases the intensity of the labour
All this in Mind why should you buy local?
- Less of a carbon footprint → By eating local you are helping the environment
Produce less waste (no packaging, environmental pollution or transportation)
- Food is harvested at its prime so it often is fresher and tastes better
- Buy local to support local → put your money back into the economy
- You Know exactly where your food was produced → Gives you a connection to your food when you know where it came from in your community
As of now, we hope that our message of local eating and supporting local farmers has been delivered. There are so many reasons why we should push ourselves and others to purchase from local places to further encourage a sustainable environment.