24 May Where Does Your Food Come From?
As I sit down at my table to eat a simple vegan Thai coconut holy basil noodle bowl, I think to myself: “How simple is this really?” I know the foods I eat aren’t really that complicated to make, but does that make me naive? Have you ever put thought into where the ingredients you’re adding into your recipes come from? As I stare at my bowl of steaming coconut holy basil noodles I start to think about each ingredient. Those snap peas are local, limes are from Mexico, noodles are made in America, red curry paste and coconut milk from Asia. It’s wild to think about all the places around the globe that you get food from without even realizing it.
We often make food based off what we’re craving, and we shop based on those, for me, vegan, recipes we crave. We never really think about creating recipes around what’s in season or where the products are coming from, and how it affects our environment. There is little to no thought process that goes on while ticking items off your grocery list in the grocery store. But I want to change that! So lets talk about where our food comes from, how they travel to your local store, and what we can do to make sure we’re making more mindful choices when we’re shopping.
Paying attention to the companies you are supporting and their practices to producing the best food for you is important. Botanica for example is a brand I use and love. I use their vegan Holy Basil which helps with stress, nourishes your mind and elevates your spirit, and I used this holy basil in this recipe photographed! The company is dedicated to working with only the best artisans around the world to not only bring you quality product, but socially responsible product. Plus Botanica uses fancy technology to ensure they are delivering the broadest spectrum of herbal constituents and not cutting any corners. Lets talk a bit more about the benefits of shopping local and being conscious about the brands we’re buying…
The benefits of shopping local
Taking it back to my vegan Thai coconut holy basil noodle bowl, in this single recipe, I have ingredients from multiple countries and continents. Living in Canada, it can be tricky to get fresh local produce all year round, so naturally, things like limes for example aren’t usually local in my grocery store, even during the summer months. However, try to shop local products as much as possible can have a ton of benefits, including:
1) The food is full of flavour
Think about it? When your fruit or vegetables are being shipped, sometimes across the ocean, and travel for days in crates, they are likely not going to have the same flavour as something grown in your back garden or on a local farm nearby. In order for food to travel well and make it to the grocery store in perfect ripeness for people to buy, farmers have to harvest early, which don’t enable the food to reach its fullest flavour. When you shop local, often times the produce was picked within the last couple of days before you purchase!
2) Local food is loaded with nutrients
When you eat local, you’re eating farm to table, and that means there is a shorter time for it to travel to you, the longer fresh foods take to reach you, the more nutrients they lose. Imported food will often sit in crates in distribution centres for days before reaching you, where local growers can tell you how your food is being grown and harvested. Allowing you to know more about your food!
3) Your supporting the local economy
This is simple. When you shop locally, that money goes back to help local farmers and growers, and the money you spend stays within your country or province. By eating local you’re helping your local economy and keep those in the food production industry in your own backyard in business!
4) It’s better for the planet
First off, by purchasing local you’re helping keep farms and green/open space in your community. Not to mention the carbon footprint that is left when foods are being transported by boat, planes, or any other automobiles to get to you. Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture says that the average fresh food item on our table travels 1,500 miles to get to you!
How you can be more conscious
I get it, thinking about where your food comes from can be daunting, and what do you do when the food you are looking for isn’t sold locally? Sometimes you feel like you don’t have any choice. Well here are some tips to help you be more conscious about the food you’re putting into your grocery cart, and body.
Figure out when things are in season in your area, and cook/create recipes based on what’s in season. All it takes is a little research in your area to get a helpful guide or tips on what’s in season when. For example, here’s a great one for Ontario, Canada. By eating seasonally, you’ll also save money since buying fruits and vegetables out of season can be pricey! Plus, in-season produce tastes so much better!
Pay attention to where your food was grown
A good exercise for keeping track of this and allowing you to really see the impact and where your food is coming from, is to write down or mark on a map the countries and continents that contribute to each meal you have. How many countries were associated with your weekly food consumption? How far did it have to travel? Could you have bought it locally (does it grow in your area or is it exotic)?
Are there alternatives?
Can you substitute certain ingredients from far away lands to local ingredients? Can you substitute the type of ingredient for something else that’s in season and local? For example, if carrots are in season in the spring, and broccoli is in season in the summer, maybe you swap one vegetable for another in a recipe you’re making. For non-produce items, like for example canned vegetables or ingredients, is there a local equivalent or a fresh equivalent that is in season? Maybe your almond milk ships from the USA to Canada, but you can buy local almonds and make your own. (P.S. My new cookbook coming out in June has a ton of milk alternatives and DIY recipes)
Where is your money being spent
Where did you purchase your food? Grocery store, health food store, online, a delivery service, a farmers market, did you grow it yourself? Take a look at where you’re purchasing items and find ways to shop more locally. Whether it is visiting farmers markets or even locally owned grocery stores versus chains. Are you buying a lot of take out or eating out in restaurants? What are their practices for purchasing local and making their food?
This may totally all seem daunting to you but if it’s got you to start thinking about where your food is coming from then I’ve done my job. Start small by paying closer attention to some of the above, and by the end of the week reflect on each. It’ll really put into perspective where your money is going and which countries, farmers, etc. you are supporting with your dollars. It’ll also help you determine if you are making the best decisions for your health, family and community!
If you try to be more conscious about your food, I’d love to hear about your experience or tips! Share them below in the comments!