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How many miles has your food traveled?

by pkline — last modified Mar 25, 2013 05:51 PM
Learn about why eating local is better for you and the planet.
When Mar 24, 2013 to Apr 01, 2013 (EST / UTC-400)
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How many miles has your food traveled?

by Paula Klinelast modified Mar 24, 2013 11:28 PM — History
It takes 7 to 10 times more energy to produce your food than is contained in the food itself! When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations.

What to we mean by food miles?

"Food miles" is the term used to describe the distance a food product travels from where it is grown to your plate. Food you buy from a conventional grocery store will have traveled more than 27 times farther than food you purchase from a local source. The good news is that between 2002 and 2008 the number of local farmers markets in the U.S. increased by nearly 50%, providing significantly more options to find locally grown food.

What is the concern?

By shipping food all over the globe, we use an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of fossil fuels. Many countries import foods they can and do grow themselves. By eating local you can help reduce global warming and air pollution. More than one fifth of all trasnportation emissions is in the U.S. come from agriculture and food products.

Why Buy Local?

Buying your food locally is good for your local economy, good for family farmers, good for your family’s health, and good for the environment. Not to mention how good fresh, local food tastes! Following are a few of the many good reasons to buy locally grown food.


You’ll get exceptional taste and freshness. Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life.

You’ll strengthen your local economy.
Buying local food keeps your dollars circulating in your community. Getting to know the farmers who grow your food builds relationships based on understanding and trust, the foundation of strong communities.
You’ll support endangered family farms. There’s never been a more critical time to support your farming neighbors. With each local food purchase, you ensure that more of your money spent on food goes to the farmer.

You’ll safeguard your family’s health.
Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations. Buy food from local farmers you trust.

You’ll protect the environment.
Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. Buying local food also helps to make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations.

Create a vision
Take some time to imagine what your ideal shopping and eating pattern would be in terms of local food. Determine how wide a range you would like to draw from - your county, your state, your region?  How would you like to monitor your progress on shifting your purchases to include more local food?

Do I know how far my food has traveled? What impact do these food miles have on my health and on the environment? How much effort am I willing to make to find local food options?

Take stock

During your next trip to the grocery, find out where you food comes from.

  • Conduct a Foodshed scavenger hunt. Find 2 chemically grown and 2 organic fruits and vegetables at the supermarket that have traveled 1) less than 50 miles, 2) more than 300 miles, 3) more than 1000 miles. What fruits and vegetables are in season but being shipped in from other parts of the country or the globe?


Take some time this week to learn more about local food.


At the bookstore or library: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet or The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating (or Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally) is a non-fiction book written by Canadian writers Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon.

The Locavore's Handbook: The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by author Leda Meredith guides readers to incorporate locally grown foods into their own meals with practical, down-to-earth advice.

Listen on line: Interviews with author Barbara Kingsolver at and the 100 Mile Diet

Short film: Know your roots watch at
Full length film: Ingredients


Foster Alternatives:

Food Routes also collaborates with to bring you an online map of local food options. This map combines multiple directories from organizations around the nation into one powerful database. In the directory, you’ll find descriptions, phone numbers, addresses, web sites, crop lists, and directions all to make local food purchasing that much easier. This week find good food near you by visiting

  • Commit to shopping at one of these locations at least once this week.
  • Consider hosting a "locavore" meal challenge with your family or friends.
  • Sign on to the Cool Foods Pledge at
  • If you are a student join the Real Food Challenge to combat climate change through food choices.

Consider attending the Philly Farmfest this April 14, 2013

Other Resources to explore:

Seasonal eating recipe ideas from the program Harvest Eating

Share your favorite places to buy local food on the Friendly Households Forum!

Reduce harm

Ask your local supermarket manager whether any of the produce comes from local farmers. Let him or her know you would prefer to buy locally grown food.

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