Recently on a trip to Boone, I went to a restaurant that had great reviews that claims to only serve local NC foods. Once you took a look at the menu, you could see that the menu was filled with only items you could get in NC. I ordered a salad with fresh greens, local strawberries, goat cheese from a local farm, pecans, and topped with blackened shrimp. You could instantly see the difference in the lettuce! The lettuce had never seen a package or a refrigerator and I was reminded at how different fresh lettuce tasted. Personally, this time of the year is one of my favorites because we have access to numerous local, fresh fruits and vegetables. While there are many benefits to eating local foods, I thought I would share with you my top ones:
- Foods are fresher. Not only does the freshness affect the taste of the food but it also affects the quality of the nutrients. For optimal nutrition, nutrients are at their peak when produce is first picked. Certain vitamins start to decrease as soon produce is harvested. In addition, other factors can decrease the quality of the nutrients such as the light, air, and temperature.
- Foods are safer. When there is less distance between produce being picked and being consumed, there is less of a chance of contamination.
- It supports our local economy. The local farmers work hard to harvest the crops each year and it feels good to know that you are helping to sustain another local business and family by purchasing local-grown foods.
- It fosters the sense of community. When you go to a local farmers market and purchase items from local farmers, you belong to part of the community. Our community has local farmers, a market for them to sell their products, and engaged consumers to purchase the items and support local restaurants that serve local foods so our community continues to thrive.
What are the best ways for you to shop for local foods?
- Shop at the local farmers market. For information on how to find a local farmers market, check out the USDA website: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets
- Consider a delivery service that supports the local farmers. One service that is available in NC is The Produce Box. They put together a variety of boxes that are filled with fruits and vegetables for you to select from each week that are delivered to your doorstep. This is a great way to try new foods that you would not normally see at the grocery store. No commitment and you can pause it for weeks of traveling or less cooking. Here is their website for more information: http://www.theproducebox.com
- Plant your own garden! It’s not too late to get a summer garden planted. This is a great way for kids to get involved with good nutrition. Here is a website from our local Agricultural department with a beginner’s guide: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/home-vegetable-gardening-a-quick-reference-guide
Next time you are shopping for food, make sure to shop for local foods. Your taste buds can taste the difference!