by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo
Last week we celebrated Utah Climate Week but did you know it was Eat Local Week too? This is a weeklong event developed by Urban Food Connections of Utah, that challenges participants to eat food grown or raised within a 250-mile radius.
Eat Local Week is intended to highlight and celebrate regional harvests, local agriculture, and Utah’s agricultural heritage. Supporting strong local food systems is one way to build a more resilient community and it can help reduce emissions. Climate change, rising temperatures, and changing precipitation patterns are rapidly changing our agricultural system.
On July 17, Salt Lake City reached our all-time city record high temperature of 107owhich was repeated several times throughout this summer and into September! High temperatures during extended growing seasons affect the health and yield of crops that haven’t been adapted to a specific regional climate. Supporting our local farmers and their farms builds and invests in communities and helps them become more resilient to our changing climate.
What does “local food” mean?
Local food is grown and produced within a small distance from where the consumer purchases it. On average, produce in the United States travels 1,500 miles from production point to the consumer’s plate. Local food, on the other hand, usually travels a maximum distance of 100-250 miles. Some common locally produced food items include fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, eggs, dairy products, and honey.
The many benefits of local foods
Locally sourcing food has many benefits, including human and environmental health. While buying local food might seem like a very small action in the context of global climate change, conventionally produced food makes up 5-17 times more CO2 than locally produced food. Let’s break down some of the ways eating local makes a difference:
Local Food is Good for the Environment
As stated before, locally produced food has a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventionally produced foods. Food production, no matter how or where, produces some greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are produced at every stage of the food cycle: on the farm, at the processing plant, on the road, at the store, and in the home. While most of the food related emissions come from the production and waste of food, emissions related to transportation make up 11% of the total carbon footprint of our foods. During transportation, diesel trucks release high concentrations of pollutants, including ozone and fine particulate matter. By buying local, we have the power to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution that make up a significant part of our carbon footprint.
More Nutrients means Better Flavor
After harvesting, produce quickly begins to lose nutritional value. When fruits and vegetables are picked and removed from their source, they begin to respirate, causing them to lose moisture and lose nutrients. Commercially grown produce travels far distances and sits in warehouse for extend period before it ever reaches grocery store shelves. By shopping at farmers markets and eating local you can talk directly to the farmer or gardener who grew it for more information. In addition, locally grown food tends to focus on crops that are in season! One study has shown that imported out of season broccoli only contained half the Vitamin C content that local in-season broccoli contained.
Local Food Sustains a Local Economy
When we buy local foods, we are directly supporting small businesses and farmers in our own community. Local farmers often have trouble competing with commercial growers in supermarkets, so by purchasing from farmers directly, we are helping them keep their business strong and putting money back into the community. In addition, urban farmland in Salt Lake City continues to shrink due to competition with new development projects. Supporting local food producers helps them to strengthen their business and ensure they remain an integral part of our food system.
Local Food Builds Strong Community
Purchasing local foods is an amazing way to get to know people in the community and build strong connections. If you are curious about any chemicals that were used to grow the produce that you are purchasing, simply ask one of the growers at the stand themselves. By building these connections, you can share recipes, tips, and other ideas about the food that you are buying! Farmer’s Markets are community events, bringing people from surrounding neighborhoods together for food and art.
How to Shop Local
One of the easiest ways to shop local is at farmers markets! There are several different markets that run year-round across Salt Lake City where you can get access to fresh locally grown produce and locally made products. A complete list of farmers markets in the city can be found here. Map link.
Are you looking for a specific product? Check out this list of where you can find certain items locally in Salt Lake City.