Local–Does It Matter?

Last night at Farmhouse Kitchen on Penn Avenue in West Reading this question was part of a lively discussion. Food and nutrition were the main focus (we were in a restaurant, after all) but this could also reflect one’s overall philosophy for consumerism.

Local food has a smaller carbon footprint and usually is fresher, being available for sale nearer the time of harvest. This is in contrast to the example given last night of bananas shipped hundreds of miles then kept in storage for up to 3 months before heading to the grocery store. “How can they be sold for $0.49/pound?” asked one of the participants. Good question without an obvious answer.

Besides learning where your food comes from and how it’s grown, buying local creates opportunity for community. Personal relationships with farmers, suppliers and local retailers strengthen the local economy and foster education. Asking questions about new foods, storage and cooking methods from the local producer or even from other customers standing in line with you at a farmers’ market expands your food world.

In our culture of fast, convenient and immediate, it may seem revolutionary to talk about taking time to find local food and talk to people. Start slow by looking where food comes from in the grocery store or making one trip per month to a local farmers’ market. The old saying of “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” by Lao Tzu applies to lifestyle changes–ones that stick with you. Enjoy the journey and maybe we’ll meet at the farmers’ market.

By the way, my answer to the original question is “Yes.”