SALT LAKE CITY — "Locavore" is a fairly recent term for individuals that eat foods grown and raised close to where they live. According to some definitions this movement “encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better”.
In times past, it wasn’t necessary to seek out locally grown foods. Many communities relied heavily on local farmers for significant portions of their daily fare by necessity.
Today, however, grocery stores feature a variety of foods from near and far including those that come from other regions and even the other side of the world. Think of apples from South America found in U.S. stores in spring for example. The modern food system does offer many benefits including generally consistent, safe, and plentiful food sources.
It makes sense to have a food system that’s sustainable and resilient in the face of challenges such as drought, flooding, or destruction of crops by pests. Sourcing foods from different regions help to provide a variety of foods available throughout the year. However, purchasing and eating foods grown closer to home may also contribute to the strength and diversity of the local food system.
Why eat local?
These local foods bring a variety of tastes and fresh flavors featuring plant and animals that thrive in the local climate and farming conditions and can be harvested at their peak of ripeness. In addition, some individuals might yearn for the days when food was a part of daily life shared within their community. For many, this might mean returning to, or increasing reliance on, foods grown by local farmers or harvested from neighborhood backyard gardens as a way to be a part of this food community.
Eating locally supports individuals in finding connections to food and the people that grow it by participating in and building food communities. What is a food community? While there isn’t one formal definition that fits all, it could be thought of as any group of people that come together to share food anywhere on its journey from farm-to-table including growing, harvesting, cooking and eating.
With this broad definition, a wide range of opportunities are available to experience connection around food, and especially locally grown foods. Neighborhood gatherings may feature favorite family dishes based on produce picked from the local farm stand or a neighbor’s backyard. Or perhaps a shared desire for sustaining farm land, traditional ways of living, and heritage foods brings people together to support and protect these important community resources. Whatever personally meaningful ways individuals find to eat closer to home can contribute to a sense of food community and belonging.
Being part of a local food community may not only contribute to a personal sense of satisfaction but also supports connection to a greater good and altruism toward others. According to researchers, “Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves.” These findings also show that practicing altruism enhances personal well-being along with helping to promote stable and healthy communities.
Individuals may feel a sense of altruism when they support their local farmers and community food systems for the benefit of themselves as well as others. This support may come in a variety of ways including shopping local farmer’s markets and shaking hands with the farmer that grew their food.
Going to the locally owned grocery market and knowing that the money spent will be returned to the community by supporting local jobs and the local economy. Individuals may also feel that they’re helping others when they purchase foods made close to home such as state supported programs for agriculture and small business owners or to help increase access to healthy foods for those in need.
There are many ways to contribute to a food community and often the first step begins with simply becoming aware of the individuals and groups that already provide a variety of flavorful, economical and nutritious foods locally. There’s also no one right way to be a locavore. Each individual and family may find their own way to connect and enjoy the many tasty and fresh local foods found just outside the front door.
To find local food resources in your neighborhood try the following:
- Try shopping at your local farmer’s market once a month
- Participate in an eat local community challenge for a week
- Explore one locally-grown food from your usual grocery store each week
- Have a neighborhood potluck each season and encourage attendees to share one favorite family dish featuring a locally grown fruit or vegetable
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