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Grocery mart with aisles of jarred goods and wicker baskets. Other aisles behind. Do you know where your food comes from? One study estimated that in North America, a basic meal travels 2,400 km to get to our dinner table. However, eating locally reduces the distance food needs to travel and the level of emissions and pollution released into the air before it can be put onto our tables. There is also a myriad of benefits to eating locally- not just cleaner air.
What are the benefits to eating locally?
To begin with, a locally grown apple is fresher and has more taste than one that has traveled great distances.
Fresher foods also contain higher levels of vitamins than food that has been imported.
Less packaging is needed for transportation, creating less waste.
Buying locally helps conserve precious farmlands and different wildlife habitats, it puts you in touch with your community and local farmers, and it gives you a direct link to the land.
Can I eat locally all year long?
However appealing eating locally might sound, there is always that looming question of what to do when the colder months arrive. When the more obvious ways of eating locally are gone, it is still possible; all you need is a little ingenuity and a lot freezer space.
Remember that not all products are dependent on the seasons; eggs, cheese, meat, poultry and greenhouse vegetables are available year round. But what do you do when it comes to produce which stops growing during the colder months?
Bowl of cereal and milk with wooden spoonLong before the invention of refrigerators, people were coming up with different ways to preserve their food.
You can still use different methods like canning, drying and pickling your produce to preserve them during the winter months. It isn’t as hard as it sounds; you just need to know the different methods for doing so. For more information on how to preserve your food, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
There are also certain foods that can freeze fairly well including your berries and apples. Other freezable foods require a little bit of advanced preparation. Dishes like ratatouille, stew, soup and homemade tomato sauce can be made when your local produce is plentiful and can be frozen until you wish to eat them.
Even though your local farmer’s markets may have closed shop for the winter, put your creativity and planning skills to work, invest in a lot of jars and storage space, and eat locally all year round. You will be helping your community, the environment, and yourself.