How Long Exactly Has Your Food Been Sitting on That Shelf?

Food often travels a great distanceObtaining local food has been a trendy practice over recent years, promoting fresher foods, greater biodiversity and supporting local economies. The practice of eating foods from within a 100-mile radius has become very popular, leading to Seattle-based writer Sage van Wing to coin these strict local-eating enthusiasts as “locavores.”

There are certainly many bountiful benefits to buying local; however, local food also produces viable debates concerning crop failure and seasonal food assurance because of plant and agricultural diseases, pest infestation, and bad weather.

On average, your food travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from the farm to your plate. So where exactly does our food come from, and how many miles did it travel?

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If you are aware of the distance your food travels, you may start taking steps for your food to travel less. Food is always local somewhere, so let’s take a look at five conventional produce items, and where they most likely originated.

Blueberries

With commercial blueberry production, there are two primary species: lowbush (wild) and larger highbush.

Georgia is a major global participant producing 10% of blueberries in the U.S. Georgia has the longest harvest season, stretching from the end of April to late July.

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From spring to fall, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and Canada, is also where your blueberries travel. Michigan is the top blueberry producer with 32% of all blueberries eaten in the U.S. In the late fall and winter, however, your blueberries travel from South America.

Apples

Are apples on your list of healthy foods? When you buy apples at grocery stores, they probably aren’t fresh. In the U.S., apples are kept in cold storage warehouses for nine to 12 months after treating the slightly unripe apples with the chemical 1-methycyclopropene.

Buying local apples helps you preserve its soluble fiber, reducing your risk of heart disease. Apples are one of the “Dirty Dozen” of fruits and vegetables that should be bought organic, when possible, because the non-organic kind is sprayed with many pesticides.

Washington State produces half the apples in the U.S., while New York, Michigan, and California produce the majority of the other commercially-produced apple supply.

Grapes

Grapes are high in vitamin C and manganese, and are helpful for lowering inflammation and improving cardiovascular health—that’s why grapes should be added to your list of healthy foods. Fresher is better with these purple and green wonders.

During the winter months, your grapes travel from Chile and possibly South Africa. April to May, your grapes are Mexican, while from late May until the beginning of November, your grapes enter the U.S., as Californians.

Peaches

“I’m moving to the country, I’m gonna eat me a lot of peaches,” goes the song “Peaches” by rock-pop group Presidents of the U.S.A.

Country farms in Georgia (known as the Peach State) and California (until September) will produce your commercially-produced peaches, beginning in early spring. In the summer, Michigan, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Washington, contribute to the peach haul. In the winter, international peaches are common, arriving from places such as Thailand or Argentina.

Peaches are great in the summer, as they are a great complement to the natural vitamin D you receive from the warm sun. Peaches are a great source of vitamin C, and help contribute as a toxin cleanser, and are beneficial for skin and vision health—definitely ones of the healthy foods you should be eating.

Asparagus

In the U.S., commercially grown asparagus are from Washington State and California, and only harvested in the spring. The rest of your asparagus arrive from Mexico, then Peru in the winter months.

The herbaceous plant is important to fight various forms of cancer such as colon, larynx, breast, bone and lung (and who doesn’t want to eat more healthy foods that can fight cancer?). The Environmental Working Group lists asparagus as a member of the “Clean 15,”—a list of fruits and vegetables with fewer pesticides.

Still, consider buying this vegetable local.

The Road Less Traveled

The miles your healthy foods travel depend on where you live; however, if you’re eating food outside of the country, your food is traveling well over 100 miles.

To reduce your food miles, try living a sustainable life and support your community’s farmers’ markets by buying local food. Also, consider visiting a local farmer for produce, and inquire which food is local at your supermarket. Gardening makes your food local and organic. These are all eco-friendly ways to keep your food miles down to a minimum.

The Natural Resources Defence Council has a tool to help you eat local, leading you to farmers’ markets within five miles of your location. The NRDC also has an Eat Local App on iTunes.

Although sticking to a local food diet can be difficult, it’s still important to know where your food comes from. If your favorite healthy foods are traveling miles to get to your plate, and end up sitting in warehouses for months, their flavor and nutrient-quality is most likely lower than that of local food.

Would you try to eat local foods?

Sources:
Bell Muzaurieta, A., “Which Foods Travel Farthest To Reach The Grocery Store?” The Daily Green web site; http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/foods-travel-farthest-44090208#slide-1.
“Blueberry,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia web site; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueberry.
“Your Apples Are A Year Old,” Food Renegade web site; http://www.foodrenegade.com/your-apples-year-old/.
“7 Amazing Health Benefits of Peaches,” iHomeRemedy web site; http://www.ihomeremedy.net/7-amazing-health-benefits-of-peaches/.