Why is Local Food so Hard to Define?
Local food is local food right?
The term local food is definitely popping up more and more in our daily lives and can be seen more prevalently in grocery stores, campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles, and used as marketing and selling tools. Ironically, as of present, the term local food is very open ended and does not fall into one set of defining criteria. The reason being, the USDA does not define what local foods are, nor governs or implements criteria to enforce standards for it; the USDA does, however regulate organic foods and what the term actually means.
Our friends at Sustainable Table sums it up best, “The term "local food system" (or "regional food system") is used to describe a method of food production and distribution that is geographically localized, rather than national and/or international. Food is grown (or raised) and harvested close to consumers' homes, then distributed over much shorter distances than is common in the conventional global industrial food system. In general, local/regional food systems are associated with sustainable agriculture, while the global industrial food system is reliant upon industrial agriculture."
Local food, in essence, will be purchased directly from farmers, at a farmers market, through a CSA, co-op , U-pick, farm stand and seldom (but slowing increasing) at your local grocery store. Local food generally is grown and purchased within close proximity to the supplier and end consumer and doesn’t travel great distances. This is where the ambiguity comes in. Depending upon who you talk to, local food can be anywhere from 50miles to encompassing the whole state or region.
Because grocery stores get such tremendous volumes, at this point it truly is impossible to stock the shelves with ONLY local food. Many, fortunately are capitalizing on consumer demand and offering selections of local goodies, namely local produce and artisanal products.
Common local food items that find their way to grocery shelves most often include:
Locally grown tomatoes
Locally grown greens
Locally grown apples and apple cider
We predict over the next decade there will continue to be an even great shift in consumer buying preferences that gravitate toward greater quantities of local, sustainable and organic products. This is evident in industry reports from both the USDA and the Organic Trade Association.