Locavore Movement: the Next Food Revolution?

In 2007, the Oxford Dictionary chose locavore as its US Word of the Year. Being a locavore means eating only locally-produced foods. Locavorism is claimed to be great for both your health and the environment. Is this lifestyle worth trying?

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The word locavore was coined in 2005 by three food-loving women from San Francisco – they challenged the city residents to eat only food produced within a 100-miles (160km) radius for one month. Ten years later, the movement has spread far beyond the US, with many people fully committing to it – not just for one month in a year, but for 365 days a year! Here are the benefits of locavorism (according to its proponents)

  • Avoid chemical and pesticides – when eating locally, you can find out who produces the food (and even meet the farmers) , making sure they do not use pesticides (which may cause cancer).
  • No preservatives – on average, food travels 2000 miles till it reaches a US supermarket; it means that foods have to be treated with preservatives to survive the journey. And while these preservatives are approved by the FDA, locavores believe that the less chemical stuff, the better.
  • Fresher food – buying at a farmers’ market, you can be sure that fruit is freshly picked, the cow was milked the day before, and the flour was milled a week (and not a year) ago.
  • Naturally ripe foods – having to transport fruit and veg across continents means that often they are picked unripe and then ripened aritificially, sometimes not fully – think of those pinkish-orange, tasteless tomatoes you get at the supermarket!
  • Reduced carbon footprint – transporting food for only 100 miles (and not 2000) means a decrease in pollution produced by trucks and cargo planes.
  • Diverse diet – when you eat locally, you are forced to eat what’s in season: there will be tomatoes for two months in a year, but the rest of the time there will be other things. Thus, you learn to incorporate new and different foods into your diet, which means a greater variety of nutrients; besides, research links diverse diet with robust intestinal microflora.
  • A new hobby – many locavores take an active part in growing their foods by joining co-op farms (where they work several hours a week during the planting and harvesting season) or community gardens; research shows that gardening has great health benefits, and there is even horticultural therapy (more info here).

Nothing in excess

The locavore movement has its opponents, too. It is often criticized for presenting its ideas as revolutionary, while the idea of eating locally-grown foods is, in fact, age-old – and in places like Italy and France it has been the norm (and Italy, for example, has its own blooming “zero kilometer” movement).

Another point to consider is that locavores, like all passionate proponents of nutrition fads, tend to get too radical, refusing to eat any non-local foods, which can be limiting. Does a cheese-lover have to give up his favourite imported Parmigiano and switch to inferior local cheese? What if wine is not made in your region? And what about bananas, pineapples, and other tropical fruit?

Nobody argues that eating locally grown food is good for you and for the community. It is all about balance: trying to arrange your whole life around a specific diet can consume too much of your time and be detrimental to your relationships with your loved once. Pursue healthy lifestyle choices, but do not become a slave to them.

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