Have you enjoyed a juicy ripe peach or tomato? What about some locally grown sweet corn or fresh green beans? We are so blessed to live in an area where produce is plentiful. I read this week that, on average most food travels more than 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates. By the time you add in transportation costs and packaging to protect the food, considerable costs both in dollars and to the environment are added to our food choices.
August 7-13, 2016 Ohioans from across the state celebrated local foods week. Why celebrate it?
*Agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry contributing jobs for one in seven Ohioans, and more than $107 billion to the state’s economy (Ohioproug.org)
*Ohio links rural and urban consumers, growers and communities to food produced on small, medium and large-scale family owned farms.
*We all are part of the food system just by making daily decisions about what foods we choose to eat.
*While there is no definition for “local foods,” we can try to make connections with those who grow the food, and this is a great time to become more aware and better informed about the nutritional, economic and social benefits of local foods in Ohio.
During that week, families during mealtime were challenged to have the conversation about local foods and what children know about the food they enjoy. If you would like to now try and need a conversation starter, try one of these:
What foods have you eaten from a garden or orchard?
Name a food that grows underground? How about one that grows on trees?
Does your school have a garden? How about your neighborhood? Or what have you eaten that was grown nearby?
All of those questions get us started thinking about the bounty around us. During the week, there was also a “Local Food Challenge” (http://localfoods.osu.edu/ohio-local-foods-week/take-challenge). You are invited to participate in the $10 Ohio Local Foods challenge by committing to spend at least ten dollars (or more) on your favorite local foods during Ohio Local Foods Week. It’s a simple survey to capture the commitment from individuals all over the state to say I’ll choose to support local foods. We know that the benefits of local are many, but research indicates that foods purchased locally are fresher and may not contain the preservatives of those that must be shipped. They taste better as most have been ripened naturally, not picked and ripened during transport. Local foods have a higher nutritional content as the travel miles are short and nutrients haven’t declined as much as those products that have been harvested and shipped. Finally, purchasing local foods help to improve the local economy and a bonus is you may even learn the story of your food if you talk with the grower and learn the details about the food you love.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.