Why Should You Eat Locally?

Eating locally is good for you.

Produce waiting to be bought at a local grocer.

Local food is often produced on small-scale farms, so the food does not require petroleum-based pesticides or antibiotics that strengthen bacteria to make it grow in mass quantities. Food produced locally doesn't need harsh chemicals to make it last for days of travel and storage. Eating locally reduces your chances of getting a food-borne illness caused by the unsanitary conditions of mass production. Locally grown food is fresher, tastes better and is more nutritious. Produce starts losing its vitamins and minerals as soon as it's picked, so food picked the day you buy it is better for your health.

Eating locally is good for your community.

Buying food grown and produced in your area helps your local economy, because your money stays in your community. The farmer buys a drink at the local bar, the bar owner buys bread from the local bakery, the baker buys wheat and fruit from the farmer and so on. Supporting local farms and businesses helps keep money within your town at every transaction.

You can get to know the person who grows or produces your food, as well, and ask them questions about their methods. Local farmers are often people passionate about good, healthy food and the environment, and they will be able to address any concerns you might have, unlike the giant food retailer down the street or the huge packaging plants across the country. By developing relationships with these producers, your neighbors, you also help to foster a greater sense of community.

Eating locally is good for the world.

A truck delivering food to the University of Florida.

In 2006, Michael Pollan, the creator of the movie "Food, Inc.," said, "The industrial food system is at bottom a system founded on cheap fossil fuel, which we depend on to grow the crops (the fertilizers and pesticides are made from petroleum), process the food, and then ship it hither and yon. Fully a fifth of the fossil fuel we consume in America goes to feeding ourselves, more than we devote to personal transportation."

Whether you believe climate changed is caused by humans or not, you must agree that as humans we have an obligation to avoid polluting the planet we live on and we have a dire need to protect our natural resources. While getting food from the ground to your plate involves more energy than is used to transport it, choosing to eat locally is one easy way consumers can reduce this energy consumption.

If eating locally grown food is so great, why doesn't everyone do it?

People think locally grown food is more expensive than food produced conventionally, and sometimes it is. Buying local food also means learning to eat with the seasons. Not everything will be available all the time. Over the course of the year, however, you will get to experiment with healthy foods you may not have tried otherwise.

The biggest issue that stops people from eating locally--in Gainesville at least, where resources are abundant--is habit. Everyone is used to driving to the same supermarket that is open almost whenever you want to go, and people think switching to a locavore lifestyle is inconvenient. Once you start eating locally, to whatever degree you can, it will become a habit, and you won't even think about it.

Listen to the University of Florida's Director of Sustainability, Anna Prizzia, explain the misconceptions associated with eating locally and hear her suggestions on how to become a locavore.

How else can I help the world by changing the way I eat?