Let’s Get Local, British Columbia!

Locally grown food is better for your health, better for the environment, and the right choice to support BC farmers and producers and the BC economy. We’re here to help folks “Get Local”. Learn why it is important to eat local food, where to find local food, and how to choose local food. The contacts on our WHERE page are directed at folks in Metro Vancouver, and if you live elsewhere in BC, please visit our WHAT page and scroll to the bottom to find links to other great EAT LOCAL initiatives throughout the province.

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THE BENEFITS OF EATING LOCALLY

LOCAL FOOD IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT

The average North American meal travels 2,400 km to get from field to plate and contains ingredients from 5 countries in addition to our own – that’s a lot of “food miles” – a term coined in 1994 by Britain’s ‘SUSTAIN’ organization. In the past 20 years in North America, the import and export of food have tripled with agriculture and food now accounting for more than a quarter of the goods transported on our roads. Food is now also the largest component of airfreight, the most polluting form of transportation. What does this mean?

When food is transported lengthy distances, a lot of fossil fuels are burnt, creating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This emits a variety of toxic chemicals that contribute to air pollution, acid rain, and climate change (global warming.) What about the distance local food travels?

Studies have shown that local food distribution systems can reduce environmental impacts significantly, as opposed to conventional truck-delivered food systems which can be 4 to 17 times more damaging to our environment. A study by Toronto’s Food Share found that a meal produced with ingredients from a local farmers’ market travelled a total of 101km while an average imported meal travelled 5,364km creating 100 times more GHGs than the farmers’ market meal. Does that sound challenging?

The David Suzuki Foundation’s ‘Nature’s Challenge’ lists eating locally as one of the top 10 things you can do to reduce your global footprint. Canada’s ‘One Tonne Challenge’ was asking Canadians to reduce their personal GHG emissions by 20%, by reducing GHG emissions from the average five tonnes per household per year to four tonnes. Studies have shown that replacing enough imported food items with those locally grown can reduce household GHG emissions by a quarter of a tonne—one fourth of your One Tonne Challenge! Let’s rise up and meet the challenge, deliciously: Let’s Get Local!

LOCAL FOOD IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR OUR FAMILY & OUR COMMUNITY

Local produce is the freshest produce you can buy. It is picked when it is fully ripe and delivered to you quicker than produce imported from another province, country, or continent. Imported produce is picked weeks before it is ripe, and often, the nutrients, taste, texture, and colour have not fully developed, which can result in the produce being gassed to create a pleasing, healthy appearance to the consumer. Is local produce really more nutritious?

When it comes to fresh food, local is most often a much more nutritious choice. For example, 24 to 48 hours after harvest, 50%—89% of vitamin C is lost from leafy vegetables. Bagged spinach loses about half its folate and carotenoids after being stored in refrigeration for just four days. Think about the nutrients in produce that is imported from other countries or continents. Not only can fresh, local produce be more nutritious for us, but also increasing our consumption of fresh produce is always a healthy choice. Studies have shown that increased awareness of regional foods leads to an increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables which can lead to a healthier diet, reducing obesity, a major contributor to Type 2 diabetes and other diseases. By becoming aware of the food we eat, we eat healthier food and less processed food with added sugar, fat and preservatives. What about taste?

Growers can plant better tasting varieties if their produce doesn’t have to be shipped long distances. Did you know UBC Farm Market sells tasty melons grown right on the farm? Have you ever bought a purple potato from Your Local Farmers’ Market at Trout Lake? When you support local growers, you support diversity. How much more can we grow?

The 2007 Vancouver Food Assessment Report states: “Estimates of the amount of food consumed in the province or Lower Mainland that is produced here vary widely (from a low of 20% to a high of 60% or more), though it is widely acknowledged that the province could produce 60% of its own food and the Lower Mainland as much as 85%.” Val Roddick, then Parliamentary Secretary for Agricultural Planning, stated in the December 2006 issue of West Coast Farmer, “the 2 major themes emerged from the Harvest to Home public presentations were the need to get young people involved in the agricultural industry and the general public needs to reconnect with where their food comes from and recognize that the farmer is the key to our survival both as a province and as a country.” Is that what food security is all about?

Eating BC foods also contributes to our food security. The BC Food Systems Network Society defines food security as “A community enjoys food security when all people, at all times, have access to nutritious, safe, personally acceptable and culturally appropriate foods, produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just.” You can contribute to BC’s food security by buying food grown and produced as close to home as possible. Throughout history, at times, food delivery has been hampered by natural disasters, weather, ferry strikes and closed borders. We need to grow a sufficient amount of food in all regions of the province to ensure community food security. What about food safety?

Food safety is also enhanced when you buy local food because businesses who sell local food are better able to source where that food comes from. Buying direct from farmers and producers or visiting farms and getting to know who is growing your food and how it is grown creates consumer confidence in food safety. When food safety is an issue in British Columbia, we are alerted in a timely manner, with the issues and progress being more transparent. Let’s eat fresh, eat tasty, and eat healthy! Let’s Get Local!

LOCAL FOOD IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR OUR ECONOMY

Choosing local food also contributes to our provincial economy and helps
BC’s 20,000 farms stay in business. When we buy a local food product, the
producer receives a higher percentage of our food dollar (and at a farmers’
market or on-farm store, 100%!) This money is then circulated many times
throughout our communities, strengthening our local economies. How does this
happen?

Most local food is sold either directly to the retailer or restaurant or via
one local distributor. This not only supports our local businesses but also
keeps a larger percentage of our food dollars in our province, rather than profits going to out-of-province, out-of-country, and international
distributors and transportation companies. What about foods processed in
British Columbia with imported ingredients?

Choosing to buy a product that is processed locally, even if the ingredients are imported, also helps our economy. Ask questions about the products you
regularly buy and find out how knowledgeable the processor is about their
ingredients and where they come from. There are BC processors who often
source as many local ingredients as possible and source elsewhere when
necessary. They employ a large number of people here in our province and can
be very knowledgeable about their ingredients and employ a high standard of
food safety. Get to know your food. What about farmland protection?

The very soil that food is grown on is vital to BC’s agricultural economy. Eating locally grown food supports our farmers and protects our precious farmland by keeping itin production. We need to protect our farmland from development and we need to “grow” farmers. In British Columbia, the median age of a farmer in 2007 was 57 years. This means that many farmers are set to retire in the near future and viable opportunities are needed to engage the next generation into succession. It is crucial that market demand for locally grown food is strong enough to encourage a new crop of farmers and that they are able to confidently grow for the domestic market. Can we really do this?

Yes! Get Local and together, we can create a healthy food system for future generations of British Columbians.

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