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Eat local, eat better

What are you going to eat this week? Most of us make that decision several times a day, which carries a lot of consequences. Have you considered, recently, the impacts your dining decisions make?

There are many things that factor into our food decisions. Think about all the things you regularly consider when choosing your next meal – What do I want? Where will I buy it? How much should I buy? How much does it cost? Is it healthy? Is it fresh? Does it have preservatives, hormones, or additives that I may not want? How was it grown or made? Is it low-fat, low-sodium, low in sugar? Is it organic? How will I prepare it? Will the rest of my family want to eat it?

Now I’m asking that you consider one more thing: is it local?

A locavore is a person who endeavors to eat only locally produced food. The word was only added to the dictionary four years ago.

So, why would someone specifically endeavor to eat only locally produced food?

“What first attracted me to eating local was the flavor and the variety of produce available,” said Dea Keen, board member of the Lower Eastern Shore Sustainable Organic Network, “and then I began to learn more about the implications of eating food that is grown thousands of miles away.”

Eating local food cuts down on the distance the food travels, reducing oil consumption and carbon emissions. It’s one more way to reduce your carbon footprint.

There are economic reasons to eat local food, too. According to the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, “In Maryland, if every household purchased just $12 worth of farm products for eight weeks (basically the summer season), over $200 million would be put back into the pockets of our farmers.” Buying local keeps your dollars circulating here. Up to 90 cents of every dollar spent on local, sustainably-produced food stays in the local economy. It pays farmers and farm labor, and gets then spent right here on Delmarva. As Keen points out, “you are supporting your community with every delicious bite.”  

Local food is fresher and therefore retains more nutrients. Eating local may require some adjustment in your buying and cooking habits, though.  In some cases, you would need to relearn how to handle and prepare fresh produce. Bread, honey, milk, cheese, yogurt, meats, and veggies are easily found locally, year-round. And now, we have local brewers and wineries that can provide the perfect pairings for a locally-grown meal.

“Have pride in your local farmer or baker. Boast that they’re the best on the shore. Revel in the flavor and the joy of bringing your favorite local food dish to a potluck,”  Keen enthusiastically said. She continues, “You eat three times a day.  Changing the way you eat could be one of the most radical, meaningful decisions you ever make.”

It’s also enjoyable. This week, I’m visiting a local farm with my daughter. We’ll carefully choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, and buy some locally-made apple cider to drink together. I’m certain we’ll find other tasty local treasures, too.

Carrie Samis is the Education Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

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