OP-ED: Eat your local vegetables
York County Food Alliance
Unless you grow your own food, what you eat is wel-travelled. A 2001 study of "food miles" reported that produce in Chicago had been shipped an average distance of 1,518 miles.
Shipping food to York County from California or China has an impact on all of us: in fuel costs, CO2 emissions, spoilage, food safety and the grocery-store-tomato-effect (much grocery store produce is bred not for nutrition or taste but to be "stable for transport" so that it can be picked green and arrive at the store looking "fresh").
Local food tastes better. Fresh, local produce is nutritious. Produce bought in-season from a local farmer is a great buy. When you buy local, you're paying for food not "food miles." Buying local helps the local economy here in York County. The more we all eat local food, the more local food will be available; it's demand and supply.
Eating fresh, local food makes good sense because York County, with its good soil, climate and rainfall, is already an agricultural powerhouse, ranked sixth in total value of agricultural products sold among Pennsylvania's 67 counties.
Notwithstanding our agricultural history, York countians aren't eating their vegetables. A healthy diet includes 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. In York County, only 3 percent of adults follow the recommendation.
Why so few?
One barrier is access. For many it's hard to get to the store — or the store we can get to has a poor, or no, selection of produce. Processed and fast food is everywhere available, and the perception is it's a cheaper source of calories — but by weight fresh produce is the better buy.
The toughest barrier to overcome is knowledge. We eat what we know, and if vegetables and fresh fruit are unfamiliar, or if we don't know how it tastes or how to prepare it, we will choose something else.
The York County Food Alliance wants to increase the availability of local produce. Farmer's markets have partnered with the Alliance to host Harvest Share donation days when customers are encouraged to buy produce to donate and share for hunger relief. The Alliance's Plant2Share initiative encourages community groups to plant a garden to share the harvest with those in need.
Home gardeners can also Plant2Share by sharing surplus produce. To find a food bank, food pantry, senior center or soup kitchen nearby that accepts fresh produce donations, search by zip code at: AmpleHarvest.org.
Everyone wins when we patronize the many farm stands and local markets around York County.
The local strawberries are ripening in the fields around York County right now. Partake of the bounty. Let's all enjoy more local produce and cut down on those food miles.
— Metta Barbour is chair of the York County Food Alliance.