Sofia’s Post: The True Cost of Buying Far-away Foods

While non- local foods may sometimes have the lower price tag in a grocery store near you, local foods are a better “deal” for the consumers health, community, local

economy and the environment. When it comes to purchasing globally distributed food, individuals often do not stop to think about where it came from, how it was made, and whether or not they are really getting what they paid for. Typically, locally grown food is defined as being grown or produced within 100 miles of the customer. That may not seem very far, however, on average in the U.S, food travels about 1500 miles before it reaches an individual’s plate, making it an unnecessary contribution to U.S. emissions (CUESA, 2017).

Food miles account for 11% of the 8.1 tons of CO2 per year emitted by the average United States household (Weber and Matthews, 2008). The broccoli you ate for dinner, for example, could have traveled about 2000 miles and emitted 105,830,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Thinkprogress, 2011).  Increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been linked to climate change and environmental degradation, which strain our social systems and economy. When food is grown in an area that is thousands of miles away from its destination, this food has to be shipped from place to place over weeks in time before you can get your “fresh” produce. With modernized advancements in mass growth of agriculture, produce is transported within the US and from other countries by plane, train or truck. By the time you have gotten your “fresh” apple, it has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles, sat on a shelf for a couples days, purchased and eventually consumed.

Buying locally also allows the customer to connect with multiple vendors, learn where their food is coming from and creating that face-to-face connection with those who provide us with the food we need.So, the bottom line is purchasing your groceries from a farmer’s market provides a higher chance that your food will be fresher, and have a lower environmental impact.

There are many websites out there that provide estimates for the amount of miles traveled by a particular food item, on average. One website, foodmiles.com, allows for families to enter in information about a produce item purchased at a grocery store and calculates the miles traveled, while also explaining what miles may not be able to be accounted for. While inexact, these are great resources for beginning to think about the distance traveled by the food we eat and the resulting impact on our community and environment.

Sources:

CUESA, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. 2017. “How Far Does Your Food Travel to Get to Your Plate?” November, 2017. cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate.

Chait, Jennifer. 2018. “”Locally Grown” Produce Defined.” The Balance. February 18, 2018. https://www.thebalance.com/what-does-locally-grown-really-mean-2538258

Cratty, Scott. 2016. “The High Cost of Non Local Food.” Grown Local. February 18, 2018  (http://grownlocalmendolake.com/the-high-cost-of-non-local-food/).

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