Buying local food – why, when and how?

What and how we eat has a huge influence not only on our bodies, but also on our climate and our environment. We can easily watch how eating the wrong food changes our body and makes us sick. But we don’t see so easily what other effects this might have – like the emission of greenhouse gases during long transports!

Why should I eat local?

Buying food locally has significant advantages:

  • It is more sustainable because of the lower transport efforts, which cause lower emission of CO2 (and equivalent). Buying local food therefore enables you to also lower your personal CO2 footprint!
  • As vitamins degrade over time, local food has a higher nutrient and vitamin content. The transport time is much lower and therefore your food is more fresh!
  • Usually, the quality is overall much better. Fruit and vegetables also loose water during transport and therefore will not taste as well anymore.
  • Also, it supports your local community. Farmers are struggling with supermarkets and discounters not paying well for their produce because of the price pressure. Buying local takes those intermediate dealers out of the equation so that the farmers can get a fair price!
fresh vegetables on a farmers market. Eating local is essential for a sustainable lifestyle!
Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

When should I eat what?

Eating local foods also means eating what is available for you at that time of the year – eating seasonal! If you want to eat melons all year long, you will not be able to find them locally in the mid of winter (unless you live in the right climate!). Most of the fruit and vegetables are always available for us in the supermarket because they have been imported from far, far away. This is not local nor is it sustainable – or even necessary!

There is always fresh local fruit and vegetables available, it might just be something different that what you usually eat. For this time a year in Germany, carrots, kale, savoy cabbage or apples can be locally sourced. Not all of them are freshly produced, but under the correct storage conditions they can be provided without long transport time and in good quality.

Depending on where you live, there are loads of resources online about what kind of foods are seasonal in your area – for Germany e.g. this Saisonkalender from https://www.regional-saisonal.de/ or this one in English for the UK.

And by the way, eating what is seasonal not only lowers your environmental footprint, it usually also is much cheaper and therefore saves you money!

Vegetables in the supermarkt are not always local!
Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

How can I source my food locally?

Buying local food is not always as easy as it sounds. Supermarkets have already reacted to the trend of “regional food” and label everything regional even if it was transported over hundreds of kilometers. In Germany, the label “regional” is not protected! This means every supermarket can have their own definition of “regional”, which might cover all of Europe.

A first approach to handle this was conducted by the Germany Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture with the “Regionalfenster” which is used to openly show where the food was produced and processed. Sadly this label is not mandatory, but it gives the buyer some guidance – much more than any Supermarket-own “regional” label!

The "Regionalfenster" showing where food has been produced and processed.

To be really sure that the food was grown locally, there are a few other options:

  • Many farmers, especially those close to cities, have their own farm store. This is perfect because this way you have little to no transport (only your own drive to the store!), very fresh food and the highest support possible for the farmer!
  • In many areas, one can buy a subscription for a so-called “Biokiste” or “Grüne Kiste”. This translate roughly to organic box and that is also what it means: You get a box full of seasonal, fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to your front door. This is a fantastic option because the produce is organic, too!
  • At local farmer’s markets, you can often buy food directly from the producer. Of course there is still no guarantee that everything on a farmer’s market is local, but especially for vegetables and fruit you have very good chances. Local markets usually are on the same day every week and in bigger towns you will have several options, also on Saturdays! On www.wochenmarkt-deutschland.de you can find the opening hours of a huge number of markets!
  • If you have a small garden or balcony, you can grow your own food! That way not only do you get fresh, local food – you also have perfect control over how this food was treated! Even if you don’t have your own garden, you might join a community garden or urban gardening group – there are many options!

How do you make sure your food is local? Do you know any other tips? Comment here or on social media, share and like!

soil in a garden - growing your own vegetables is a very good option for local food
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

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