What’s missing from our plates in an era of superstores, weird science, and transportation without limits? Taste, tradition, health, sustainability, clean, fair, and environmentally friendly are all great reasons to care about local food. Jobs are another.
We live among 18 miles of shoreline and acres of harvestable farmland, a region full of people passionate and interested in local food. We, too, are passionate about building a local food economy, and partnering with committed businesses, farmers and fishermen who feel the same way.
But rebuilding our local food system to provide healthy, clean and fair food for all of us year round is going to take an all-out effort of imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship.
Seacoast Local food economy projects include partnering with Slow Money to help local investors grow our local food system. Our shared goal for our country: a million people investing 1% of their assets in local food systems within a decade.
We also convene the Seacoast's Local Food Network, a quarterly forum of Seacoast-based organizations and individuals who share our vision. At the table are Seacoast Growers’ Association, Slow Food Seacoast, Seacoast Eat Local, Great Works Regional Land Trust, Chef’s Collaborative, the UNH Office of Sustainability, and the Community Garden Network, among others. Working together, we will get there faster
Don't forget Fishtival! Every year, we co-chair this waterfront party in Prescott Park for 4,000 people to celebrate our prized local fishing industry, and learn how we can make sure it’s still part of our food system for generations to come.
Our ReRootEd program will be bringing these programs together under one umbrella this year, and adding a research element as well.
Our aim is to increase the role local, independent businesses play in building and supporting a sustainable local food system on the Seacoast.
We're excited about the possibilities. The local food system could be a tremendous driver of our economy. A recent study in Vermont showed that if Vermonters substituted local products for only 10% of the food they import, it would result in $376 million in new economic output, including $69 million in personal earnings from 3,616 jobs.
Right now, less than 5% of the food we eat in New Hampshire is grown or harvested here. So there is plenty of room to grow. In 2006, the Maine State Legislature updated Maine’s Food Policy to include a goal for Maine to grow at least 80% of the food it eats by 2020. We could do the same.
More and more people are gardening, farming and seeking out local foods on the Seacoast. Thanks to the work of committed farmers, fishermen, distributors, processors, markets and restaurants, we’re able to put a place and even a face to our food, which then, in turn gives us, the consumers, ownership over our food and the power and personal responsibility to come together to protect, conserve, and invest in this tremendous resource.
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Five Great Reasons to Serve Local Food in Local Schools
1. Schools already provide breakfast and lunch to our children: From preschool through high school, wouldn't it be an amazing transition if every child was served a wholesome, delicious meal, every day? Some families can't afford or don't have the time to feed their children whole foods—schools have taken on the role. Good food is a right, not a privilege. Providing it every day brings children into a positive relationship with their health, their community, and the environment.
2. Food is an academic subject: A school garden, kitchen and cafeteria are great places to learn. Our food traditions, biology and ecology can help bring alive every subject—from reading and writing to science and art. Celebrating our local food teaches children about our history and heritage.
3. Children learn by doing: Students in schools that improve school lunch and connect those changes with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes scored higher on nutrition knowledge than those in schools with lesser-developed local foods programs. Recent studies show child preference for fruits and vegetables, especially those leafy greens or veggies that they recognize from gardens and taste in the raw, is clearly higher in schools that have a local foods program.
4. Schools support farmers and fishermen: School cafeterias are banding together to buy seasonally fresh food from local, sustainable farms and fishermen, not only for reasons of health and education, but as a way of strengthening local food economies.
5. Food is a common language, we all eat: A naturally beautiful environment, where deliberate thought has gone into everything from the classrooms to the garden paths to the plates on the tables, communicates to children that we deeply care about them and their future health and goodwill.
Compiled by Amy Winans of ReRootEd, from sources incuding Chez Panisse Foundation; a report by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, University of California at Berkeley; and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.