The Seasonal "Locavore": Guidelines for Healthy Eating When You Can't Eat Local

Few of us would argue the health and environmental benefits of locally produced food. It is usually the freshest, best tasting and most nutritious food we can give our bodies, and growing, harvesting, and transporting it locally leaves the smallest carbon footprint and does the least amount of damage to the environment. Unfortunately, not all natural resources are allocated equally. In other words, bananas don't grow in the snow. Here is how to make healthy food choices for you and the environment when shopping locally just isn't an option.

What is a Locavore Anyway?

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The term Locavore first rolled off someone's tongue publicly in 2005 when it was coined by a San Francisco woman, who on World Environment Day challenged members of her community to eat only food produced within a 150-mile radius of their home. Mainstream media quickly adopted the term, which is now commonly used to describe consumers who consciously choose to buy and eat only locally grown food. Even if you have never heard the term before, your kids probably have. In just three short years, Locavore has received so much momentum that in 2007 it was selected 'Word of the Year' by the folks at New Oxford American Dictionary (carbon neutral won in 2006).

Oxford's Definition

According to Oxford University Press, the word Locavore describes a "movement that encourages consumers to buy from farmers' markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation."

Bananas Don't Grow in the Snow

"Shunning supermarket offerings" in favor of the farmers' market might work in Utopia, but it sounds a bit impractical (if not a bit elitist) to those of us who are geographically challenged and live with winter nearly nine months out of the year. For some of us, the idea of going all winter without a glass of fresh orange juice or bananas on our cornflakes isn't appealing (or realistic). Giving up our imported fruits and veggies leaves us with root vegetables, assorted meats and dairy products and large plastic jars of vitamins-which, incidentally, are probably not manufactured locally.

The Hierarchy of Healthy Food Choices

The healthiest diets come from eating a variety of fresh foods, and living in a colder climate means less available options during certain times of the year. Although hydroponics make it possible to produce some vegetables (and perhaps some fruits) year-round, even that has its limitations. Considering both human and environmental health, here is a guideline to sourcing food (listed from most optimal to least favorable) if you are unable to get it locally:

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  • If you can't get it locally, make sure it's organic. Skipping the hormones and pesticides is best for you and the environment.
  • If you can't get it organically, try to get your food from a small family farm or farmers' co-op. When it comes to policymaking and generating pollution, large-scale agribusiness easily out competes the small-scale family farm. By supporting family owned farms and farmers' co-ops, you help give farmers a voice in production and processing decisions, and prevent them from being left in the hands of profit-seeking special interest groups.
  • If you can't get your food directly from a family farm or farmers' co-op, then get it from a local business. Let's face it, certain food items like coffee can't be grown locally in most parts of the world. Keep your dollars local by focusing on supporting local roasters or coffee shops. Local business owners have a stake in your community and are vital to the health of your local economy. Local restaurant owners are also more likely to source some of their food stocks from local or regional producers.
  • If you can't support a local business, then support Terroir. French for 'soil', terroir is a term most often used by wine producers when referring to the specific type of regional geographic influences (soil composition, climate, etc.) that go into producing a wine's unique finished flavor. In other words, support the specific region or farming practices that specialize in producing your favorite non-local foods (e.g. brie cheese from Brie, France, or coffee that is fair trade and shade-grown).

This list was adapted from http://www.locavores.com

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

May 8, 20080 found this helpful

Here is a great site that will help you find local places to buy food and other things.

http://www.localharvest.org/

I love the farmer's markets myself, our local one just started up last weekend. No real food yet but lots of plants!

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July 31, 20090 found this helpful

I'm a localvore . . .locavore sounds like the Spanish word loco (which means crazy).

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