By Program & Market Manager Claire Admire
Research and anecdotal evidence point to the role that strong local food systems have in creating resilient communities. What is resilience? According to the VNRC,
“A resilient community has the ability to withstand, respond and adapt to challenges…from natural disasters to economic, social, and political upheaval. A resilient community thinks long term and is able to reorganize and renew itself, ideally in ways that put it in a stronger position than before the shock.”
You’ll notice that food isn’t mentioned at all in this definition – so why is it one of the keys to stronger, better communities? A safe, reliable, nutritious, and accessible food supply is required for all other systems within a community to work. Here’s why the local food system is the best at meeting those requirements, and why we should support it:
Your food will have a higher nutritional content. Our food has seen an overall decline in nutrients over the past 50 years due to soil depletion from modern intensive agricultural practices. Smaller, local farms generally use sustainable agriculture practices and composting practices and keep their soil’s nutrient levels high, and pass those nutrient benefits onto you.1
You’ll eat more varieties of food. The greater crop diversity found on local farms means more nutritional diversity for consumers and more resilience to pests and drought. You also have the added bonus of eating whatever is local and in-season for your area.
Farmers Markets are accessible. In 2014 there were more than 8,000 farmers’ markets across the U.S., up 180 percent since 2006. Farmer’s markets are usually in community centers easily accessible by foot or bus, which makes them more accessible. In Little Rock there are farmer’s markets in 7 neighborhoods, as well as an online farmer’s market open year-round. And with more farmers markets accepting SNAP and EBT as payment, cost no longer has to be prohibitive.2
The local food chain is stronger and safer. In the wake of so many recent environmental disasters, it’s easy to see why having your entire food supply trucked in from the other side of the country does not make much sense. When communities are immobilized, it’s important to have food nearby, and not have to rely on the Walmart bread aisle.3 One of the biggest safety concerns with the modern food chain is that the product passes through so many different facilities that it is almost impossible to isolate and contain a bacterial breakout before it reaches consumers. Avoid safety recalls and possible contamination (not to mention the legal levels of contamination) by shopping from local vendors and farmers.
The local food chain is good for our economy. Small scale farmers are at an economic disadvantage right off the bat, because they can’t partake in the subsidies that keep over 50% of America’s arable land covered in corn and soybeans.4 They also have to compete with the artificially low cost of food in supermarkets and chain grocery stores, which makes their prices seem costly to the uninformed consumer. It really does take a community’s buying power to keep these small farms and vendors in business, so use every opportunity you have to shop locally. Even markets in small cities can have economic impacts of over a million dollars.4