Why Local Food
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 seashore and acres of harvestable farmland, in 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.
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, but 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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.
Five Great Reasons to Buy Local Food
- Local food builds a stronger community: Deeper connections to the people and the land that grow our food are made when consumers, chefs, food service directors and business owners connect directly to the source of the food they eat.
- Local food supports local farms and fishing boats: Local purchasing allows those who farm and fish to keep more of the full retail value for their crops, allowing them to sustain their way of life.
- Local food supports responsible land development: When land is preserved for farms and pasture, we are preserving open space and providing an economic incentive to keep it open and undeveloped.
- Local produced food is fresher: Local produce can stay in the ground or on the tree longer, allowing for a higher nutrient content, and will travel a shorter distance from source to plate, preserving the taste and quality of the food.
Local food supports a strong local economy: One dollar spent at the farmers market supports four times the workers than one dollar spent at the supermarket.* We’re supporting local jobs held by people who care about the food they grow and how it’s treated.
Adapted from “Top 10 Reasons to Buy Food Locally” by Brenton Johnson and ”The Local Food Economy in Two Charts” by Tom Philpott.
Five Great Reasons to Serve Local Food in Local Schools
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Sources: Compiled by Amy Crosby 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.
Visit our Key Studies page and learn more about the role of food in the local economy movement. Read AMIBA’s annotated Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local, Eat Local, Go Local.