Do you know where your vegetables and other food originate? Leading online source of children’s health information, AboutKidsHealth, looks into the growing trend of buying local food in a sustainable fashion, as well as the health and environmental benefits.
One study found that, on average, the food in Ontario grocery stores has travelled 4500 km from the place it was grown or raised. As a result of this and similar studies, there is a growing movement to buy food that is grown locally and sustainably. Not only is this good for your health, but it helps support local farmers and the local economy, and engages the community.
The term “locally grown” is intuitive, but what does sustainable mean? Sustainably grown food has been produced in ways that are healthy, do not harm the environment, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities. Sustainability means buying locally as much as possible. But buying locally does not necessarily mean the food is grown sustainably. Local food can still contain pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.
Furthermore, long-distance transport of food by air or truck adds to greenhouse emissions. And when pesticides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals are used on food, they eventually seep into the groundwater and soil. All of these can contribute to global climate change, which has an impact on the health of people around the world.
It was out of an interest in maintaining health and the environment that Chris Wong founded Young Urban Farmers two years ago. The company plants sustainable “raised bed” urban gardens in backyards, which allow people to “reconnect to where food comes from,” says Wong.
After a year establishing raised bed vegetable gardens for homeowners, the company branched out into community shared agriculture. “We started building grassroots community foodsheds as part of the movement to teach why sustainable farming is important, talk about environmental effects, and provide education,” says Wong.
For the community shared agriculture project, Young Urban Farmers sets up vegetable gardens in backyards of at least 500 square feet, using the same sustainable philosophy in terms of raising the plants, and the seeds and soil used. “It’s a great way to eat fresh, local produce, know who’s growing your food, and eat with the seasons,” says Wong. The program runs 18 weeks in the summer through to October, in three large Toronto neighbourhoods.
Young Urban Farmers is the first and only community shared agriculture project in Toronto, but undoubtedly similar projects will spring up as time goes on. “Toronto is taking a leading stand in urban agriculture,” says Wong. “Toronto is at the forefront, the leading edge across Canada. It is exciting to get involved and eat healthier food at the same time.”
More and more people are starting to realize that when they eat local food which is sustainable – from their own gardens or through community gardening, or more traditionally from farmers’ markets or farmer’s stalls on the countryside – the food tastes better. Moreover, knowing where our food comes from gives us a greater awareness of what we are eating.
For information about healthy food choices, see the Nutrition section in the Health A-Z of AboutKidsHealth.
For the original article about buying local, sustainable food, please see:
AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from what we can learn about math for kids, to teenage drinking and driving, to buying local foods in a sustainable fashion. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.
Visit www.aboutkidshealth.ca to find out more.
For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue