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Food miles

Food miles: Encouraging consumers to purchase locally-grown food

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 by: Michael Ravensthorpe
Tags: food miles, eat local, farmers markets

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(NaturalNews) Food miles (or food kilometers) is a term used to describe the distance that food is transported as it travels from its producer to its consumer. The concept is used to highlight how far a food is transported through global trade, and also the cost of doing so in economic, environmental, and social terms.

It is important to pay attention to food miles because when a food is transported a long distance, it loses a great deal of its original taste and nutritional value. Longer transport times also affect the environment, since the transport vehicles release pollution into the atmosphere and consume natural fuels.

Origins

British professor Tim Lang established the concept of food miles in the early 1990s whilst he was working for the Sustainable Agriculture Food and Environment Alliance. However, the first person to mention the term in print was Angela Paxton, who wrote a report entitled The Food Miles Report: The Dangers of Long Distance Transport shortly after Lang coined the term. Either way, the term food miles is a relatively new one, although it is becoming an increasingly relevant issue for environmentally-conscious individuals whom wish to know where their food is coming from, and whether its transit has negatively affected the environment.

The food miles concept encourages people to purchase locally-grown food

Although it is difficult to calculate your product's food miles to an exact degree, an understanding of where it was shipped from will give you an overall idea. If you live in America, for instance, then it is certain that food shipped from Europe will contain many food miles.

Therefore, locally-sourced food is always best to buy, since:

1.) You'll get food that is fresher and more nutritious. Local food sold in markets and co-operatives is likely to have been harvested shortly beforehand. Furthermore, local farmers can offer varieties of produce tailored to personal taste, rather than preoccupy themselves with adding ingredients that increase the food's shelf life.

2.) You'll be financially supporting your local community, and thus family farms that may be struggling against the multinational corporations. If you buy locally, you'll be both supporting the farmers whom provide the food, and the merchants whom sell it. You'll also be supporting your community on a more social level; personal interaction with local sellers and growers will strengthen the bond between the two. Such forgings of trust and understanding are the foundations of strong communities.

3.) You'll protect the environment more because the food miles of locally-sourced food is minimal (and, in some cases, non-existent). Little fuel will be used by, and little pollution will be generated from, the transport that brings locally-sourced food to a local store.

4.) You'll be protecting your family's health. By buying locally sourced food, you can ascertain what ingredients the farmers use in their products. Finding organic farmers won't be difficult, and you'll be doing your family's health a great service by choosing food that is free of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, and other poisons.

Evidently, there are many reasons to buy locally. The easiest way to do so is to find a farmer's market, local food outlet, co-operative, or farm stand in your local area. You can also encourage local grocery stores to stock products from local farms, or local restaurants to purchase more of their products from the same. This way, you'll help other people in your community to reduce their food miles as well!

Sources for this article include:

http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/definitions/Food-Miles

http://food-hub.org/files/resources/Food%20Miles.pdf

http://lifecyclesproject.ca/initiatives/food_miles/

About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.

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