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HOW TO: Four ways to eat locally grown food

“Locavores” want to reduce their carbon footprint, eat delicious food, and support their local communities

Choosing where you buy or source your food can make a difference to the planet and your community. The “locavore” movement is encouraging people to eat food produced within a certain distance, to reduce their carbon footprint and support local farmers.

Food & Trees for Africa, a leading Section 21 non-profit social enterprise that focuses on food security and environmental sustainability, has been nurturing local farmers for three decades, working to make nutritious food available for all who live in South Africa and increase the availability of local produce.

Agriculture is a major carbon culprit, responsible for more than a 10th of humanity’s global emissions. From the fossil-fuel guzzling farm equipment through to the change in land use, large-scale agriculture has a large climate change price tag. According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gas methane, which is produced by livestock and agriculture, is significantly more climate altering than carbon dioxide in the short term. And that is before the food is moved around the country and the world. Eating locally produced food could reduce these emissions greatly.

To reduce our carbon footprints and avoid catastrophic global climate change, we need to change the way we produce and consume food.  Here are four tips on how to eat more locally-grown food.

1. Visit farmers markets to discover local producers in your area

A quick Google will point you in the direction of farmers markets in your area, but often that is just the beginning. At these markets, you can find out who is producing the food you want to eat and whether there are other less well-known markets that might be more to your taste or more niche farmers you want to support.  FTFA has been supporting small-scale farmers around South Africa for more than 30 years. FTFA’s community market gardens sell produce to the local community, boosting their areas’ economies.

2. Check the packaging

On the back of all supermarket food labels in South Africa, manufacturers are required to list where the food was produced. By carefully reading the labels on food, you will find out if your food had to travel overseas (with all the consequent carbon emissions) to reach you. It is up to you whether you extend your locavore radius to include other farmers in our Southern African neighbour countries. It is important to note, though, that sometimes the food is only “packaged” in South Africa, and was actually grown somewhere else.

3. Eat less processed food

Highly processed food often has a number of ingredients, sourced from all over the country (or the world). These ingredients have to travel to the manufacturing site and then the final tasty nibble is transported to the shop where you bought it. Each stage of this process has a carbon cost.

By buying and eating less processed food, you’re not only reducing your carbon footprint, but caring for your body. “Many pre-packaged foods are processed with high levels of added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates,” according to South Africa’s department of health. “Research has connected these nutrients of concern to increased obesity and chronic nutrition-related diseases.” Eating locally sourced food can reduce your consumption of these ingredients.

4. Grow your own

When you grow your own herbs and vegetables, you know exactly where they come from and how they were cultivated. While not everyone has a garden and the space to plant an expansive vegetable garden, a few pots of herbs on your stoep or kitchen window mean that you are not buying those herbs from a shop – saving you money, reducing the packaging you produce, and cutting the carbon needed to get that herb bunch onto shop shelves. And when it comes to climate change and helping the planet, every little bit counts.

Donate to FTFA and help plant more food gardens around South Africa.

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