Local and Seasonal Food

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Latest Edit: Iva 2012-03-05 (EDT)

Local food is defined as food that has been grown between 100-150 miles of the consumer or the place of sale. Seasonality of food refers to the time of year when a given type food is at its peak, either in terms of harvest or its flavour.[1] Over the past decade there has been an increasing consumer demand for locally grown produce with the aime of creating a system where sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of that region.[2]

Fruits vegetables.jpg


  • When food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and it is estimated that the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1500 miles to get there.
  • In order for crops to be transported they must be harvested early and refrigerated for lengthy periods of time so they don’t rot during transportation. Consequently, produce may not ripen as effectively as it would in its natural environment, and some level of flavour, moisture and nutritional value is lost as a result.
  • Transporting produce frequently requires irradiation (produce is zapped with a burst of radiation to kill germs) and the application of preservatives (e.g. wax) to protect the produce en route. [1]
  • From a economic standpoint selling and shipping produce is both very costly and time consuming for farmers. When not selling their produce locally, farmers receive only $0.20 of each food dollar. The remaining $0.80 per food dollar is spent on transportation, packaging, processing, refrigeration and marketing.

Perceived Benefits

The benefits of consuming seasonal and locally produced products include:[1], [3], [4]

  • Support for smaller local farmers and the local economy.
  • Crops can be selected, grown and harvested to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.
  • Small local farms can grow a wider variety of produce which helps protect biodiversity and preserve a wider agricultural gene pool.
  • Ongoing use of local farmland for farming helps protect open space and keep land development in check.
  • Decreased risk of contamination as the food is moving through fewer hands and channels.
  • Relative abundance of the seasonal crop allows for a reduction in price.
  • Creation of a sense of connectivity and community.
  • Reduction in the environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Consuming Tips

The following are ways in which local and seasonal produce can be obtained:

  • Shop at local farmers’ markets or farm stands
  • Purchase produce from locally owned grocery and natural food stores or co-ops as they are more likely to stock local foods
  • Plant a garden and consume what you grow
  • As a result of the limited growing seasons in many regions it’s often difficult to eat locally and in season all of the time. In such cases a good alternative is to purchase seasonal produce from a nearby region in order to minimize the shipping time and its relative negative effects.
  • The website www.localharvest.org provides a comprehensive list of all of the farmers markets and seasonal produce guides throughout North America. [5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 World Watch Institute http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6064 Retrieved 28 Feburary 2012.
  2. Feenstra G (2002) Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field Agriculture and Human Values;19(2):99-106.
  3. Pitchford Paul (2002) Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition Third Edition. North Atlantic Books.
  4. Balch Phyllis (2006) A Prescription for Nutritional Healing Fourth Edition, New York, Avery.
  5. Local Harvest http://www.localharvest.org/search.jsp?st=109&ty=-1&nm= Retrieved 28 February 2012.