Eat Local Foods!

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Local foods have a part in driving local economies and are an integral part of the larger food system. Yet, the definition of “local foods” is as confusing as that of “natural foods”. I think of local foods as foods I grow and foods grown in and around my city and state. People who live in states that have a longer growing season or have climates that encourage year round production have an easier time procuring local foods within 10-100 miles. Regional foods from the tri-state area can also be considered local foods depending on where you live.

Recently Strolling of the Heifers,a group based out of Vermont, released the top ten best and worst places to eat local foods. The 3rd Annual Locavore Index ranks each state and the District of Columbia according to a number of statistics including: number of farmers’ markets, number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, number of food hubs, and also the percentage of school districts in the state participating in farm to school programs. Food hubs, farmers’ markets and CSA’s are divided per capita (for every 100,000 residents) with the farmers’ markets and CSAs weighted at 30%. Food hubs and farm to school initiatives are weighted at 20%. According to the math, the outcome gives a representation of which states are great at buying and eating local foods and which states are not so great at procuring local foods.

States that rank in the top ten for eating local foods include:

1. Vermont
2. Maine
3. New Hampshire
4. Oregon
5. Hawaii
6. Rhode Island
7. North Dakota
8. Wisconsin
9. Montana

As a Montanan who eats local foods as often as possible, this top ten ranking makes me proud to be a locavore. In Montana where the climate is colder and arid, I also include regional foods as local when they come from all of our bordering states: Idaho, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. (On the Locavore Index Idaho ranks #12; Wyoming ranks #19, being knocked out of the top ten this year; and South Dakota ranks at #27 this year). Access to local foods in these states isn’t surprising.

However, the list of states ranked at the lower end of local food procurement does astonish me a little since some of these states have agriculture as major state industries.

Here are the ten states ranked lowest for buying and eating local foods:

51. Texas
50. Nevada
49. Arizona
48. Louisiana
47. Arkansas
46. Oklahoma
45. Mississippi
44. Illinois
43. Utah
44. Alabama.

What can be done to bolster your state’s Locavore Index Rating? First of all, education about your local food system is the place to begin. Does your state have more food deserts than food hubs? Do you know where your local farmers’ market is? Does your child’s school participate in the farm to school program and include local foods on the lunch menu? Secondly, get involved. If eating locally is important to you and your town offers no farmers’ market, find out what it takes to start a farmers’ market. Next, start a garden to locavore just a little more! Your garden can be a few herbs in your window sill, a raised bed, or even a garden market farm. Gardening makes eating local foods as easy as harvesting some cilantro sprigs off your patio. Finally, purchase the local foods that are featured in your grocery store. It may take a lot of label reading, but you may be surprised at what foods your state does produce.

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  1. Christopher Julien says:

    I think that the local food movement is the key to sustaining our planet. Although there may be the ability to produce mass amounts of food on a national/factory farm level, the quality assurance factor suffers in a mass production environment. I feel healthier and safer eating foods from towns that I can drive to within less than a day.

    Montana is blessed with a rich amount of land and an agricultural industry that is still thriving on independence. The fact that I can buy eggs from a farm ‘over the pass’ helps me help my local economy, too. I think that local markets and farms are and will continue to be the key to a sustainable food future.
    We should all “locovore a little more!”

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