The benefits and costs to local food

In Canada, it is estimated that the average meal travels 2,400 kilometres to get from field to plate…

In Canada, it is estimated that the average meal travels 2,400 kilometres to get from field to plate and contains ingredients from five other countries.

When we visit our grocery stores, we are confronted with such a vast array of choice, we are left overwhelmed: what should we eat? Local food? Organic Food? Whatever is on sale?

While most of us agree with the idea of supporting a local food economy and avoiding pesticides, we have difficulty paying the premium that these choices can entail.

Why is it more expensive to eat local food? Why should the consumer pay more money for making an environmentally responsible choice that is better for our health?

One of the problems with our current food system is that the cost at the supermarket does not usually reflect the true cost of the food to our planet and our health. “Cheap” foods – instant noodles, hot dogs, crackers – are enabled by processing high volumes of government subsidized inputs into products that will last longer on your shelf. Meanwhile, the related costs to our health and environment are externalized.

The industrial food system is happy to sell us tasty, addictive foods with little nutritional value, but are less willing to pick up the tab for problems their system contribute to: increased healthcare costs, waistlines and disease; increased fossil fuel use and pollution to waterways, airways, pathways.

In an ideal food system, the government would support and enforce environmental stewardship in all food production and encourage a robust local food economy, rather than depend on the consumer, who may not have the choice to pay more for food.

So what can we do to help?

When at the grocery store, pay attention to where your food originated.

• Grow your own food (or befriend a kind neighbour with a garden.)

• Support your local farmer’s market.

• Write your MLA and vote for politicians who will support more and facilitate a local food economy and sounder food policy.

• Choose seasonal foods when you can.

If you have the financial means, support the food system that you believe in!


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