Ruth Clark: Support the eat-local movement 

Published: 6/7/2022 8:02:37 AM

As we move toward summer, it is a great reminder to eat local and with the seasons. Right now, in my garden, the lettuce is almost ready, the snow peas and sugar snap peas are about halfway there and I finally got the carrots seeded this weekend.

There is nothing quite like eating produce fresh out of the garden, whether it is your garden or from a farmers market or CSA. There are many important benefits.

Here are six reasons to eat local and seasonally.

Better health -- One of the most-important reasons to eat local and seasonal is nutrient density. Local foods are picked and delivered at the peak of freshness, which offers a higher nutritional content. They are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and antioxidants that are important for optimal health.

Less travel and environmental impact -- Foods that are not local are harvested early to help the food endure long-distance shipping. As a result, they don’t have the full complement of nutrients they might have had if allowed to ripen naturally. Studies have shown that produce on average loses nutrients each day after it has been harvested, and after three days it has lost 40% of its nutritional value.

Eating local also means less fuel is used and less greenhouse gasses are generated.

Minimizes impact on food -- Produce is often genetically engineered to facilitate packaging for these long trips. Transporting fruit and vegetables can also expose them to irradiation to kill germs or preservatives like wax to protect the food during the trip while it is under refrigeration.

Supports local farmers -- The financial support you provide to the farmer means you are often investing a smaller, more-diverse farming system. This compares to large monocrops which deplete the soil of nutrients (making the soil less productive over time), reduces organic matter in soil and can cause significant erosion. With fewer than 1 million Americans listing farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. When you buy directly from a farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the grower and the eater.

Tastes better -- Local and seasonal foods hands down are more delicious. What affects nutrients also affects flavor. Food that travels a long way from its origin loses its essence every step of the way. And when picked before it is ripe, the food never gets a chance to develop its full flavor potential. Just compare those flavorless pulpy tomatoes that are available in the grocery store throughout the late fall, winter and spring to that warm, fully ripe, delicious tomato from your garden or the farmers market; there is a big difference. Food grown in your local community is usually picked within the last day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor.

Boosts local economy -- Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.

One of the things that COVID has taught us is that our food supply system needs to change to one that is more sustainable and less vulnerable to global changes. This means supporting our local farms and food producers to create a more-connected community. Our current system is highly concentrated and operates on a just-in-time supply basis. Images of miles-long lines at food banks, panic buying and empty grocery shelves should serve as reminders of how important food systems are in our lives and how unbalanced they have become.

This is one of the reasons I support and am on the board of the Cornucopia Project. Cornucopia Project is a local nonprofit organization that plants the seeds for a lifetime of healthy eating, starting with children. We approach nutrition holistically by growing gardens, sharing healthy cooking and inspiring young farmers on the education farm. Hands-on learning grows children’s connection to healthy food in meaningful ways that create lifelong regard for the environment, nutritious eating, and an active lifestyle. This is exactly what is needed to create a healthier and more sustainable system.

Today, June 7,  is the launch of the NH Gives, an online fundraising campaign exclusive to New Hampshire nonprofits which starts at 5 p.m. and will continue until 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, June 8. This campaign is biggest fundraiser of the year for Cornucopia. Please join us in supporting this worthy cause. Any donation, large or small, is appreciated. You can just go to nhgives.org/organizations/the-cornucopia-project to donate. Thank you for your consideration.

Ruth Clark, author of the best-selling book “Cool the Fire: Curb Inflammation and Balance Hormones,” is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master’s in public health and over 35 years of experience.  She lives in Sharon and her practice is 100% virtual. Clark specializes in midlife and older women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at ruth@ruthrd.com.


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