Eating locally is becoming increasingly popular.
Farmers’ market with baskets of vegetables: eating locally seems easier now.

Why Eating Locally Is Better for Everyone

5 minutes

These days there’s a lot of emphasis on eating locally. You’ll see menus in restaurants touting their locally sourced food, and more food in stores is labelled as locally produced. Everyone seems to agree that eating locally is the way forward, but what does it mean and how can you incorporate it into your life? And how about getting out and eating locally at restaurants?

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Eating Locally, What Does It Mean?

There’s currently no official definition for eating locally, but it’s generally understood to mean consuming food that is grown and harvested near to where it’s sold.

According to the definition adopted in the US 2008 Farm Act:
For food to be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product”,
it must be produced less than 400 miles away from where it is sold.

However, farmers’ markets and other direct-to-consumer markets are well-recognized as examples of locally sourced food. For most people, eating locally means consuming food that has not been transported long distances.

Farmers’ market with wide range of locally produced foods
Eating locally is easier with wide range of locally produced food

Eating Locally Produced Food: Some Nutritional Benefits

One advantage of eating locally is that the food isn’t distributed over such long distances. At a farmers’ market, you can buy produce from local farmers and know that the food’s fresher because it hasn't been transported across the country or sat in a warehouse for long periods. 

This is important when it comes to nutrients. Vitamins and minerals start to deplete in food as soon as it’s harvested. So, your fruits and vegetables that have been shipped long distances or sat in storage are less nutrient-dense than locally produced food. The longer food is stored, the fewer antioxidants it has. Antioxidants play an important role in fighting free radicals and keeping our bodies free from disease. Smaller food producers are also more likely to implement organic practices and less likely to use harmful pesticides, which have been linked to various ailments and higher risk of cancer. 

Producers who have to ship their food over long distances need to pick the produce before it's ripe. In contrast, locally sourced food can be allowed to ripen naturally, ensuring best flavour and freshness.

Example of locally produced food: strawberries ripening in the sun while being picked in the field
Eating locally means your food can be allowed to ripen naturally, and it’s sometimes cheaper when offered as pick-your-own.

What Other Benefits Are There to Eating Locally Produced Food?

Eating locally can be said to be more environmentally friendly. Studies have shown that mass produced food has the potential to create much greater global warming than the small-scale production models used in locally produced foods

It stands to reason that cherries that you buy in season from a local farmer will have a much smaller carbon footprint
than the same fruit flown from the other side of the world.

You'll often find that since locally produced food doesn't have to be transported over long distances or kept in storage, it doesn't need so much plastic packaging. People selling food at farmers’ markets have more options to use more biodegradable and environmentally friendly packaging solutions.

Some locally produced food―different cherry tomatoes sold directly by the producer
Locally produced foods are often light in packaging and feature several varieties of a single vegetable or fruit.

Eating locally also has benefits for your local economy. Spending money in your local grocery and buying from farmers’ markets can help those businesses to grow and offer more products. Having thriving food businesses means increased income in the community, which then helps to boost the local economy further.

Another advantage to eating locally is that it opens you up to new foods
you might not otherwise try!

Eating locally sourced food can limit you because of seasonality, meaning you're limited to what's available around you at that time of year. But the upside is that there are local varieties of foods that aren't cost-effective for large food distribution networks to sell, and eating locally is a chance to discover and enjoy these gems.

And if you happen to be following a vegetarian diet or a flexitarian one,
let your curiosity roam free towards unknown vegetables and local or ancient varieties of fruits!

Locally produced food, such as these apples sold at a food stall
Eating locally can help boost your local economy.

What's the best way to start eating locally at home and restaurant? 

  • As a first step, find out what's in season near you at any given time. Buying seasonal produce helps to support local farmers and growers. 
  • Visit local farmers’ markets. You might be surprised to learn the range of locally sourced food on offer. 
  • Lastly, research your restaurants and look particularly for farm-to-table restaurants like The Shed in London, which includes origin details for the foods featured on their menu. 

TheFork selects for you restaurants that value organic foods, often linked to locally produced foods.
Numerous restaurants offers vegetarian dishes too and pay attention to their origins
have a look at their menus and enjoy eating locally in your favourite restaurants!

Book a restaurant with TheFork

If you're feeling particularly green-fingered and have some free time, you could even try your hand at planting your own garden! A strait way to enjoy locally produced foods from your garden to your plate!

Afterwards, you can discover new flavours by using the fermentation process
to naturally preserve your local production surplus: extra vegetables and fruits.
Fermented foods also offer benefits, why not give them a try?

Eating locally: questions and answers

There’s no agreed-on definition, but eating locally generally means choosing food that has been grown and harvested nearby and isn’t transported over long distances.

Eating locally sourced food is better because the food is fresher. Locally produced food can be picked at optimal ripeness and doesn't lose its nutrients as a result of long periods in storage or transport. Eating locally also has a lower carbon footprint.

The advantage of eating locally is that you can enjoy fresher food and help to support local businesses while reducing your carbon footprint. However, in urban areas there may be less choice of locally sourced food, and you’re constrained by what’s in season.

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