Why It's So Important to Buy Fresh and Buy Local

Center of Concern | Tue, Feb 5, 2008

By Stephanie Heishman

It’s something I wish more people were passionate about: where their food comes from. Whether you shop at your local Hy-Vee (Midwest), Giant, Safeway, or even Whole Foods—our eyes should be much more on the skeptic side than quick to trust. Why?

It's something I wish more people were passionate about: where their food comes from. Whether you shop at your local Hy-Vee (Midwest), Giant, Safeway, or even Whole Foods"”our eyes should be much more on the skeptic side than quick to trust. Why?

If you stop and look at the big picture --it's really just a simple visualization exercise: think of the life of a single pear, apple or even head of lettuce traveling in truck all the way from California, it's hot, it's cold, it goes from box to box, truck to cart, it sees some bugs, inhales some gasoline fumes and well, goes through a few germy hands, and then sits for about 2 or 3 weeks until it makes it into your mouth (you wash it of course).

With global warming as the biggest environmental issue of our time --and the threat of consuming the world's oil within our lifetimes, or our children's lifetimes"”it's important to note that the average food travels 1,500 miles (that's a low-end estimate) before it reaches your plate. (See this blurb about oil use for food).

In a Washington Post article this past week, Jill Hollingsworth, vice president for food safety programs at the Food Marketing Institute, said it best: "we as an industry need to step up and do what the government can't reasonably do on their own, given their resource and people limitations," and, "one way to do that is to work directly with the suppliers to raise the bar and set some guidelines beyond the regulatory standards."

That's why I've made a choice to get my produce from local farmers Randy and Chris Treichler (Star Hollow Farms in Pennsylvania). To me, they are the true suppliers that can raise the "bar" on regulatory standards. As a consumer, I've prefer knowing who picked my lettuce or potato, or pear. And, I find it fascinating that most of the produce I get is in its (figuratively speaking) infancy, to the new world"”(above ground or off the branch). I know this because it STAYS FRESH longer.

Buying locally has also forced me to better understand the relationship between food and its season. Even if you turn your nose up to turnips, you understand quickly that it's February and fresh blueberries are hard to come by (except in South America). But when nectarines are in season, they will be so amazing since we've waited a year and nothing compares to fresh, local nectarines!

The seasonality aspect also gives me reason to try new recipes and experiment with ways to use this fresh produce (my grandmother loves my phone calls for recipes too!) See my friend Eric's excellent blog about what happens when a food lover's taste buds and conscience meet. A quick note about organic: as stated in the Post article "Current USDA standards prohibit only artificial colorings and additives in foods labeled "natural;" high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil still can be used." Farmer Randy may not be able to call his grass and bug eating chickens "organic," but then I know where my eggs are coming from. And for $2.75 a dozen"”it's worth it. See also "USDA Certified Organic." For more information, read the Organic page in the Issues section.

Each week, I get a detailed list of where my food comes from"”and it's all local via the Tuscarora Organic Coop. It's nice to know that my money is going to Randy, his upkeep, his gas to travel each week and deliver produce"”not the advertisers or traditional middlemen. But most importantly, I know what I'm eating, and I know it's much healthier, fresher and better for me.


  • Each year, the average American consumes 260 pounds of imported food.
  • 98.7% of foods imported into the U.S. are NOT inspected by the FDA for safety.
  • Of the scant 1.3% of imported foods the FDA tests, over 200 shipments of grains, fish, vegetables, nuts, spice, oils and other imported foods are detained each month for issues ranging from filth to unsafe food coloring to contamination with pesticides to salmonella. The other 98.7% of untested food is immediately green-lighted for the American diet.
  • The U.S. imports almost twice as much food today as it did just ten years ago, yet the FDA's budget for testing imports has been cut nearly in half since 2000.

Stephanie Heishman
Center of Concern