Summer is here and that means enjoying fresh produce as a part of our diet. Often times when we shop for produce, we check for things such as ripeness, bruising, freshness, organic or the increasingly popular term “locally grown.” Have you encountered “locally grown” produce? This term is almost or even more confusing than “organic.” What do you think it means?
What does local mean?
When evaluating local foods, it is important to have a clear definition of “local,” and often times not everyone has the same definition. Start by considering where you shop for produce. Ask the manager at your supermarket if they purchase foods that are grown locally. Did you know that not all “local” labels are equal? Ask the manager what their definition of “local” is. Sometimes this area is in a 50-mile radius and sometimes it is in a 250-mile radius. However you define “local,” the meaning to you should certainly include “from nearby.”
There is no legal definition of “local” in food labeling. According to research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the definition adopted by the U.S. Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act) is “The total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.”
The local food movement aims to develop more self-reliant food networks, improve local economies, and increase health in some areas. Local food is an alternative to the global food model which often involves food travelling long distances before reaching the consumer. A local food network is comprised of relationships between food producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers in a particular place. All of these folks work together to increase food security and ensure economic and social sustainability of a community.
Labels are designed to signal that food we want, whatever we want it to be, organic or local.
Do your research and ask all your questions to make sure you are getting what you want out of your locally labeled foods.
For a better understanding of terms such as natural and organic, consider reading “Natural, Organic, Local, Grass-Fed – What’s the Difference?”