Monday, September 5, 2011

Local Food Has Healthy Benefits

Americans seemingly enjoy the cheapest food out of all the industrialized nations. In 1949, Americans spent 22 percent of their household income on food, today only 10 percent. A 2009 report from the United Health Foundation headed by scientists from MIT and Columbia University noted that 90 percent of American food is processed, meaning it has been mixed with ingredients, often acting as preservatives and fillers that can make food fattening. 

This “cheap” food is taking a toll on our health; America is becoming a country of overweight and obese individuals: Currently, 127 million adults are overweight in the U.S. alone, and 60 million of them are considered clinically obese. It’s also taking a toll on our environment; 19 percent of America’s fossil fuel consumption is used in agriculture, and the majority of that used to manufacture chemical pesticides and fertilizers. This government-subsidized, fuel-guzzling, industrial food system is killing Americans and needs to be mended.

There’s a current food trend that aims to mend this broken system. It can be duplicated in every household, creates jobs, ensures safer food, and puts better tasting meals on your table. “Eating local” is the practice of eating foods sourced from one’s own local area. A practice 70 short years ago that was just considered, eating.

Domestically, a carrot travels over 1,800 miles from farm to plate. Not having to ship products thousands of miles gives farmers who produce food for local consumption more options. Local farmers are able to produce more heirloom varieties. These tasty varieties from the past somehow survived industrial agriculture’s progression of seeds to those created by folks in lab-coats with a focus on ones that will ship well, package easily, and are resistant to diseases.

Heirlooms come from a time when taste actually weighed in on a farmer’s decision on what to plant instead of factoring in shipping and packaging. Ever wonder why store-bought tomatoes don’t measure up to ones from a farmers’ market or your garden? Industrial tomatoes are picked green, shipped when still hard, and gassed with petroleum derived ethylene to quickly ripen them. This process doesn’t allow the natural sugars in a tomato to fully mature, thus creating a tasteless, cost effective, red orb.

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