NEPA bites: Supporting Local & Sustainable Food
NEPA bites is all about supporting and sharing the food and drink culture of Northeast Pennsylvania. One of the great things about being a local food blog is that in addition to exploring and sharing the area’s restaurants and food events, I also get to talk about one of my favorite subjects-sustainability. NEPA bites is committed to supporting local growers, farms, CSA’s, events, small-batch food makers and businesses that are rooted in the community and help grow and support our local and sustainable food culture. By sharing this information, we hope to connect people with local ways to bring sustainability in their own kitchens while supporting local businesses.
What do we mean by sustainable and local food? In the simplest form, we’re talking about a network of local growers, makers, and purveyors that work together to enhance a community’s environmental, economic, and social well being.
Is all local food sustainable? Unfortunately, no. In order to be both, food must be produced locally AND use sustainable means to do so. In the past several years there has been a trend of “greenwashing” or “localwashing” on food products, wherein sellers are ambiguous about the information they give consumers about how a food or beverage product was produced.
How is Local/Sustainable food Distributed?
- Farmers’ Markets. Farmers’ markets are communal spaces in which multiple farmers gather to sell their farm products directly to consumers. Farmers’ markets may be municipally or privately managed and may be seasonal or year-round. Farmers may have to pay a vendor’s (or other similar) fee to participate, and must usually transport their own farm products to the farmers’ market site.
- Community Supported Agriculture– Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are direct-to-consumer programs in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest. Consumers are often required to pay for their share of the harvest up front; this arrangement distributes the risks and rewards of farming amongst both consumers and the farmer. CSA participants often pick up their CSA shares in a communal location, or the shares may be delivered directly to customers.
- Other Direct to Consumer Programs-A much smaller proportion of the direct-to-consumer market are options such as pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands and stores, and gleaning programs, in which consumers are invited to harvest crops that are left in fields, usually after harvest.
Why is local and sustainable food better? This is a long answer-too long for a single blog post- but one that will be the focus of many posts to come. Here are some things to get us started thinking about the importance and benefits of these practices: When you buy local:
- You support local businesses and your community when you buy local and sustainable foods in one of the above mentioned ways.
- Your food is much more nutritious. The farther your food travels to get to your grocery store, the less nutritious it becomes. That tomato from California in February? It’s almost colorless for a reason.
- Those who eat local and sustainable learn to also eat seasonally. They aren’t eating that flavorless Winter tomato from 3,000 miles away. They’re thinking of more creative ways to use root vegetables, and in turn they are increasing their nutrition and expanding their palate by eating food they may not have explored otherwise.
- You reduce your environmental footprint on the planet. (Which is important if we want to, you know, keep being able to grow and eat actual food)
For some great info on how far food travels to get to your plate and some solutions to eating more locally, check out this video.
Eating Local with NEPA bites
NEPA bites is just getting started curating the area’s best food and drink guide. We’ll be out there checking out all the places-from classic favorites, to new and emerging talent, so we share the best bites in Northeast PA with you. We know that eating local means recognizing that the best things always come from home. By supporting local and sustainable food networks, makers, restaurants, and small businesses we hope to help grow the sustainable local connectivity of the area and improve the way we eat and live together.
If you are a local restaurant, chef, bartender, food event organizer, farm, farmer’s market, CSA, small batch maker of food or drink, or small business who is committed to all things local and sustainable, we’d love to partner with you. Get in touch with us to start a conversation about spreading the word about what you do best.
Coming soon to NEPA bites…
This Spring we’ll be sharing recipes, videos, and cooking classes where we’ll show you how to create great food using local food in your own kitchen. (Because I guess we can’t eat out every night, sigh.)
Here’s a sneak peak. (Check out our Eat in Section of the blog where we post recipes)
Sources and further reading on sustainable and local food practices:
- Your Food’s Roots : a video series that explores issues of local, sustainable, and organic food practices
- Kitchen Vignettes, a farm to table blog by Aube Giroux
- 13 books on the food system tha could save the environment
- Sustainable: A documentary, now available on Netflix that gives a great working example of how local farmers and restaurants can connect, work together, and support each other and completely revive and improve the economics of farming communities.