The New Year is well underway and our resolutions are going strong or forgotten. At Iowa Food Coop, we feel strongly there’s one resolution we should all commit to keeping: Eating local. Luckily, eating local is a great resolution to keep because it supports so many of things we want in our lives. Things like being healthier, being part of a community, and trying new things. Here are six reasons why you should eat local in 2016.
1. Healthier, fresher food. Most of us start the new year with a goal of being healthier. We start going to the gym more, eat more salad and fewer chips, and pull out that yoga mat that was collecting dust in the corner of our living room. One way to stay on track with your healthy eating goals is to buy more fresh, local produce. You’ll find the food is more flavorful and lasts longer, which makes eating healthier more joyful. It tastes fresher because it is fresher. The salad mix you ordered was picked the day before you picked it up and traveled fifty miles instead of 1,500 miles.
2. Try something new! Maybe you said you’d try something new every week or every day in 2016. Maybe you have a Pinterest board full of bucket list items. If you’re adventurous you’ll love eating local and you’ll really love shopping at IFC. Our producers are always adding unique items like aronia berry brats, cardoon, and lard. Challenge yourself by ordering something you’ve never tried during every cycle. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite food!
3. A greater connection with your environment. By eating local food you’ll automatically learn about when foods are in season. You’ll find meals that represent winter to you, like hearty soups with lots of root vegetables, and meals that represent summer to you, like sweet corn and BLT’s. You will know that goats produce milk after they give birth, that you can eat the beet greens as well as the roots, and if you pay attention to what your local farmers are sharing on Facebook you might learn about farming too. Maybe you’ll start growing a few things yourself… or maybe you’ll decide to leave that to the professionals.
4. Become part of something bigger than yourself. When you eat local you do so much more than “just” eat local. At IFC we’ve seen our members and producers become friends who exchange holiday cards and congratulate each other on weddings and babies. At our annual meeting each year our members and producers sit together to share food and talk about the challenges and triumphs of farming, the environment, health, and the meaning of life. Okay, maybe not the meaning of life, but we wouldn’t put it past our members. By eating local you’re supporting a different kind of community that cares for each other.
5. Support Iowa’s economy. You love shopping in the East Village, bought your bike from the Des Moines Bike Collective, and prefer local restaurants to chains. You’re proud to be from Iowa and have the Iowa Native or Transplant sticker on your bumper to prove it. According to the 3/50 Project, for every $100 you spend locally $68 of that comes back to your community in the way of taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. When you shop at a national chain, only $43 comes back. And shifting just 5% of your out-of-area spending to support local produces and businesses would have a $1 billion impact on Greater Des Moines.
6. Local food preserves Iowa farmland and makes Iowa a more beautiful place to live. If you’ve ever visited one of our producer’s farms, or any diversified farm, you know they are beautiful places. Imagine if the drive across Iowa had more diversified farms raising vegetables, meat, dairy, and flowers, for miles and miles. It would be magical, but those farms and barns won’t be there for future generations if we don’t support them today.