Eating Locally for the Environment and YOUR Health!
This feature is from MUSC Health and MUSC Urban Farm, sponsors of Eat Drink Local Month.
The Eat Drink Local Challenge during the month of May challenges individuals and organizations across the Lowcountry to shift their purchasing and eating habits to focus on supporting local farmers and purveyors.
The challenge not only inspires friendly competition between local organizations as they seek to shift their dollars to support local food and drink purveyors, but it also serves as a launchpad to improve health outcomes at the individual level.
Eating local isn’t merely a fleeting trend but rather a conscious return to the way in which humans have consumed food for thousands of years. The ‘eat local’ movement has been a decades-long environmentally conscious effort to improve local economies, develop more sustainable food networks, combat food desserts, support fare wages and safe work environments, and generate healthier food consumption practices linked to improved health outcomes.
An often overlooked benefit of consuming a diet abundant in locally grown foods is that it provides your body with essential nutrients while limiting substances that can be harmful to you in high quantities-such as refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, synthetic trans fats, and preservatives-that are often found in highly processed packaged foods.
A growing body of research strongly suggests that, by choosing to eat local, you can reduce or reverse a variety of risk factors for chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, and even many different types of cancers. “Food as medicine” is a term now commonly used to describe an emerging recognition among health professionals that food plays not just a supplemental but a central role in overall health and wellbeing. When the emphasis is placed on eating locally, there is a natural reduction in the consumption of highly processed/preserved food items that can negatively impact our health, so not only does eating locally bolster the local economy, but it can also impact your wellbeing, longevity, and reduce a variety of biometric risk factors.
Locally grown produce has a shorter harvest to table time, so it can be picked at it’s prime ripeness, preserving the flavor and nutrition. Produce that is traveling has to account for that time, so is typically picked before it is ripe and additional travel time allows for loss of flavor, texture, water and water soluble nutrients. Less travel time also means safer food as risk for contamination comes with harvesting, washing, shipping, and distribution. By eating locally grown, you are eliminating several of these steps, therefore reducing the risk of foodborne illness.
You can start supporting the ‘eat local’ movement with small shifts in what you choose to purchase and from whom. For example, purchasing produce directly from farmers at farmers markets, participating in a CSA (community supported agriculture) and buying regional foods from the grocery store, which are usually labeled with the ‘certified South Carolina’ seal, are all ways to make a shift. You can also encourage the local food vendors and restaurants to ‘buy local’ by asking which items on the menu are from South Carolina.
MUSC is proud to sponsor and promote the 2022 Lowcountry Local First “Eat & Drink Local Month Challenge” during the month of May to support our local economy, health, and our future generation’s health.