Dietitians encourage patients to focus on “whole foods” that are nutrient dense rather than “processed foods” that are energy dense. What is the difference between the two? Well, nutrient dense foods provide nutrients for your body such as fiber, vitamins and minerals with low added sugar and fat, while energy dense foods, or high calorie foods, provide many calories with little value to your body.
A whole food would be considered, ideally, as a food with only one ingredient i.e. corn on the cob, apple, chicken or a cucumber. These foods will assist you in reducing your cholesterol, regulating your blood sugars and reducing risk for diabetes while also assisting you in maintaining your weight. A processed food is any food with more than one ingredient, and food companies typically add additional sugars, preservatives, dyes and “bad” fats such as saturated and trans fats.
Healthy Farm to Table
While you might get a good feeling from picking a tomato from your own garden, or purchasing a bundle of kale from your local farmers market, you are also getting the benefit of healthier food. Because it doesn’t have to travel long distances, local food can be grown to be tasty and healthy – not just resilient to long travel.
According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in a study of 16 common fruits and vegetables, the average one travelled just under 1,500 miles before it was sold to a consumer. Additionally 39% of fruits and 12% of vegetables were imported from other countries. To keep food from spoiling during these long trips, some produce is picked before it has had a chance to fully ripen – and absorb nutrients from its surroundings. This practice allows the fruits and vegetables to ripen in transit and ensures that consumers get fresh, ripe produce year round, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture, it causes the produce to lack in the nutrients that would be present if it was allowed to ripen on the vine.
Local Food Movement with Less Movement
In addition to being healthy for you, getting your food locally is healthy for the environment. The average 18-wheeler gets roughly five miles to the gallon. To move produce 1,500 miles would burn around 500 gallons of diesel fuel, which is a lot of gas to burn to get a tomato that most Americans could grow in their backyards.
The Local Food Movement and the Economy
Because so much food is transported from up to 1,500 miles away, and much of it is imported from outside the country, local economies don’t always benefit from the sale of farmed food. Concerned locavores can reverse this trend and pump their food budgets into their local – or at least national – economy by buying local meats and produce.
Farm to School
Restaurants and families are not the only producers and consumers getting into the farm to table movement. Farm to school movements are sprouting up across the county. Farm to school – or farm to cafeteria – movements help both farmers and students by supporting small to medium sized local farms by providing them with consistent business and by providing school age children with healthy locally grown food. Programs also encourage experiential nutrition education activities designed to teach children to be healthy eaters for life.
In 2010, a $50 million federal farm to school bill was proposed before the House of Representatives. The bill proposed providing $10 million a year for farm to school programs for five years. The bill has not yet been passed.
Local Food Movements in Your Community
Although the local food movement has gained momentum in the last few years, farmers and organizers encourage the public to continue to demand locally grown food in restaurants and supermarkets. For farm to table food to become the norm rather than the exception, consumers have to continue to ask for local food!
MCore FTS Tip: every city has farmer’s markets, local fruit & vegetable stores, the ability to buy directly from farms or indirectly from farms (i.e. FreshDirect.com) – please continue to support the local businesses in your area so that this industry can continue to grow and the smaller participants can survive against the larger supermarket chains.
And remember, it’s not just about fruits & vegetables. Most farm products range in scope from eggs, milk & cheese (dairy) to poultry & other meats, and farm products (homemade jams, relishes, homemade no add’l sugar added fruit pies, etc). Think fish markets as opposed to supermarkets when purchasing fish/seafood as well.