Food Miles and How to Get Rid of Them

Do you know how far it takes for food raised on a farm to get to the dinner table in America? On average, it takes about 1,500 to 2,500 miles, according to the WorldWatch institute— roughly equal to a road trip from San Francisco to Detroit. And while you might complain that your food might go on awesome road trips on a daily basis, the cost of this long journey from farm to fork is devastating to health, local communities, and the environment. And the scale of this devastation can be captured in something called food miles.

So what exactly is a food mile? Well, in basic terms a food mile is the distance that food travels to get from its place of production (the farm) to where it’s eaten (your fork). And large amounts of food miles tend to mean large amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere –with energy devoted to shipping the food by truck and plane, as well as keeping the food fresh, contributing to a fast growing source of greenhouse gas. And the air pollution released by these greenhouse gases contributes to health problems such as asthma near transportation centers such as railroad yards and airports. Moreover, long distance food damages local economies as people who can produce food within 100 miles are unable to compete with the ‘higher quality’ food that is shipped from overseas. When you add all the costs up, food mileage is hardly the best thing for us to have.

So how would we reduce our food mileage and leave a healthier planet in the process? There are several options you can choose over the 2,000 mile salad.

Consider a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, for an example, where you can pay a monthly or seasonal fee to have fresh food delivered right from local farms to your door. This helps create economic stability for farmer’s—allowing them to focus on farming instead of selling the food they produce—and helps build a relationship between the farmer and buyer. Sometimes you’ll have the chance to tour the farm where you’re food was grown. Try doing that with a piece of steak you bought at the grocery store.

Another option you have is visiting a local farmer’s market, where farmers sell their local produce with a health conscious and local mindset. There are many organic options at the typical farmer’s market and farmer’s markets are growing fast with 8,144 in 2013, compared to 5,000 in 2008, according to the National Farmer’s Market Directory. In the state of New Jersey, towns such as Ramsey, Montclair, and Oakland, to name a few, have been part of this movement. So if you want to do something revolutionary to reduce food miles, and have fun and healthy time doing it, try farmer’s markets.

And the final, and may we say one of the best, options is to grow your own food. You can create a garden in your own yard or help create a community garden. Compost food scraps can be composted for soil, and certain crops such as tomatoes, kale, and strawberries, can grow very well. Growing gardens like this is one MEVO’s favorite things to do, so if you need help growing, we’d be there to help.

So, after all these options you see that reducing your food mileage is a very easy thing to do. After all, it doesn’t seem fair that your food should have to travel more than you do. Let’s get started.

Below is a list of resources about CSAs, local farming, and gardening.

  1. A list of CSAs within your community
  2. A list of Farmer’s Markets in New Jersey.
  3. The basic guide to starting a garden