America has food backwards. The majority of our grocery shopping is done in a supermarket with the top items on our list being prepackaged, precooked, and processed foods containing little nutritional value. The produce we select has been shipped thousands of miles and treated with unnatural chemicals to keep the bugs away and to maintain its shininess on shelves.
Healthy foods such as raw nuts, fish, and organic produce are expensive, which limits many families from making healthy food choices. In fact, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that it costs $1.50 extra per person per day to eat healthy. That’s $550 more per year for a family of four.
Along with our lack of nutrition, Americans are funding large corporations who have little regard for families or the local economy.
Big, beautiful misshapen squash piled high next to tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables you’ve never seen. A few steps beyond there’s a woman spinning honey and across from her is a delectable goat cheese display. This is the scene at your local farmer’s market, and this is the way America used to be.
At the turn of the 20th century, most of the food Americans ate came from within 50 miles of where they were eating it. This changed during industrialization with advances in agriculture and a shift in the demographic from rural to urban settings. Not only did the population boom, food had to travel farther than it used to, many times arriving past its peak of freshness.
The Health of the Matter
In 1960, the U.S. expenditure for food was about $74 billion, roughly three times as much as the $27 billion spend on healthcare. Statistics from 2013 show Americans are now spending $1.42 trillion on food and $2.9 trillion on healthcare. Inflation aside, we are spending twice as much on healthcare as we are on food, the exact opposite of where we were at in the 60s.
While we may have saved money on food, the food we’re buying has skyrocketed the money we spend on healthcare. The white flour, refined sugar, excess salt, and unhealthy fats may be cheaper to produce, but the cost savings don’t last in the long run when hospital bills start to trickle in.
With today’s health conscious and buy local kick, we are working to get on track to reverse these numbers. In 2014, an Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) study found that farmers markets that had been open at least two seasons experienced a 64% boost in customer traffic. To accommodate the increase in traffic, 85% of these farmers’ market managers were looking to add new vendors.
Buying direct from the farm has numerous benefits to your health and the local economy. About 81% of farmers’ markets offer healthier eating programs, and many are accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Buying locally grown produce ensures freshness, maximizing the amount of nutrients you digest. In fact, more than 85% of farmers market vendors travel fewer than 50 miles to sell their produce. Shopping at farmers markets also encourages people to cook, which leads to the consumption of whole, nutrient-dense foods.
It is reported that American farmers receive just 17.4 cents of every dollar Americans spent on food. At farmers markets, they receive 90 cents on the dollar. Not only does the local farmer benefit, the local economy does as well. By keeping those 90 cents in your community, farmers are able to offer more job opportunities and stay in business, continuing their local spending.
Not only that, a study from the Easton Farmers Market in Pennsylvania found that 70% of farmers market customers patronized downtown business, spending up to an extra $26,000 each week.
At Rootastes, we believe that food tastes best fresh. By supporting local farmers whenever we can, we maximize the nutrient potential of our ingredients and keep money local. Cheers to good health and a strong economy!
Meg is a dreamer, entrepreneur, and homesteader based in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She loves her cats, feasting, and road trips in her green VW Bug.