Locally grown food is surely a healthier alternative as they are more likely to be fresh. Fruits and vegetables lose their optimal level of nutrition as soon as they are plucked. The shorter the travel time to your plate, the healthier the food is.Time taken by food to travel from farm till plate impacts their nutritional content. Leafy vegetables suffer the most nutrient loss when being transported.
Not only the transit time but also the stage of harvest impacts the nutrition the fruits and vegetables hold. Studies report higher Vitamin C content in papayas, tomatoes and red pepper when they are harvested from the plant when they ripen. If they are closer to the consumers, they can be harvested optimally.
Prolonged exposure to air, light and temperature fluctuations increases chances of contamination. Apart from common physical changes like sprouting, which is common in root vegetables, there can be serious bacterial, viral and parasitic infestations making these fruits and vegetables unfit for consumption. These microorganisms being invisible to our human eye, can cause serious damage to human health. Eating locally grown fruits and vegetables, we can minimise chances of this contamination.
As post-harvest cycle time is relatively smaller for fruits and vegetables grown in the vicinity, it reduces a lot of food wastage. Less intervention of machine, while harvesting and handling fruits and vegetables, renders them to be natural in real sense.Improper handling can cause bruising, crushing and wilting in fruits and vegetables leading to changes in texture and moisture ultimately resulting in spoilage.
Poor hygiene and improper sanitary methods and practices throughout the supply chain can lead to contamination which can cause biological hazards like growth of pathogens (bacteria, yeasts, moulds, parasites, viruses) if our food has to travel really far to reach us.
Little or minimal treatment is done on fruits and veggies grown in the neighbourhood, as there is no pressure to increase shelf life. This enhances its nutritional value as they ripen longer and more naturally. Bananas to survive high transit time from farm to consumer, are plucked when they are ½ or ¾ ripe. Later artificial ethylene gas is used for their ripening. This artificially stimulated ripening misses the taste, texture and aroma of natural ripening. In some cases, Calcium Carbide is used for producing ripening Acetylene gas. This contains arsenic and phosphorus which are harmful for us and is even reported to be carcinogenic. Similarly, Apples are treated with wax for increasing their life. As most of the polyphenol antioxidants and fibre are lost with the peel, we end up eating this wax along with the peel. Local sourcing can help us obtain it in its most natural state. Similarly, irradiation of fruits like Strawberries to control decay and mould formation can cause reduction in natural sugars and vitamin C. It even changes the texture, flavour, aroma and colour. The closer these fruits grow to you, the more natural they are likely to be. Local varieties are mostly chosen for their taste and nutrition not for their shelf life hence minimal intervention is done while marketing local produce.
F&V growing in vicinity requires less rigorous packaging making it more environment friendly option. Marketers have to spend on preserving the moisture content and freshness of fruits and vegetables in transit, to prevent water loss and transpiration. If not done properly, it can lead to biological and physiological changes in the food. Lack of proper packaging has implications either on cost (if more environment friendly packaging is used) or on quality of produce (if not much is thought through on packaging and preserving the freshness) or on the environment (if cheaper versions of packaging are used). In all three cases, we alone are at a LOSS!
Less energy and fuel are consumed in transporting food to your plate in case it does not have to travel far, hence it is “Green” way of thanking the mother nature.
There are more chances of phytochemicals remaining intact in local fruits and vegetables, consumed as early as possible after harvest. These phytochemicals play an important role in healing body and mind.
Local food mostly comes from your vicinity. Giving you an opportunity of knowing your food better. It also builds the community bond, helping strengthen the local ecosystems. More consumption of local foods also benefits the local economy creating a win-win for all.
Locally grown food is a lot tastier and full of flavour, apart from being healthier, more ecological and sustainable.