The Advantages of Local Foods

By Harrison Sweet, Food and Soil Committee

Over the past year, the pandemic has exposed the limitations and problems with our globalized and hyper-connected world. We have seen toilet paper shortages, hospital and healthcare services overrun, and a worldwide shipping delay costing billions of dollars from a ship stuck in the Suez Canal. We’ve seen the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories about the pandemic as well as the radicalization of many Americans by the global social media apps like Twitter and Facebook. We have seen transnational corporations force people back to work without proper safety protection and governments open up way too early. We have seen the ugly side of globalization.

In a recent book by Helena Norberg-Hodges, she lays out a scathing critique of globalization and proposes a new way of living that’s more sustainable, healthier and gives people more meaning: localization. Norberg-Hodges defines localization as “a process of economic decentralization that enables communities, regions, and nations to take more control of their own affairs…shortening the distance between producers and consumers wherever possible, and striking a healthier balance between local and global markets” (Norberg-Hodge 2019). Now, this can often be confused with isolationism, or protectionism but more specifically localization is a process of counter-development through a “recognition of what older cultures often did well: they relied on local resources and local knowledge to meet people’s material needs…[and] they put a high value on community ties, which enabled them to meet people’s psychological need for connection and security” (Norberg-Hodge 2019). Localization is about trying to find a better balance between the energy we spend on our own towns and cities and the energy we spend on big, transnational companies.

A key part in this definition of localization is local foods, which are foods that are “grown and harvested within 100 miles of your home or the restaurant where it’s served. It doesn’t come from large commercial farms, and it isn’t transported over long distances…Locally grown foods are found at farmer’s markets, roadside farm stands, pick-your-own food farms and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs” (Amisson 2020). Local foods have many benefits on top of the decreased distance that food travels which include improving community health, increasing environmental education and enriching food security. Having the source of the food nearby helps community members see the process their food goes through as it travels from the farm to their house, deepening the connection between them and the environment.

This connection also strengthens community bonds and helps both farmers decrease their economic uncertainty every year and educators teaching children about where their food comes from and how to eat well (Dixon 2009). It also gives climate activists a way to educate the public about climate change in a way that directly pertains to their and the community’s well-being. Although eating a better diet consisting mainly of plant-based products can have a bigger greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction than local foods, certain products bought locally can help reduce GHG emissions especially if the products require emissions heavy transportation (Weber 2008). Finally, local food helps to increase the food resiliency of the community by encouraging diversity and carbon farming techniques that help to create better soil, more nutritious plants and a healthier atmosphere (Horst 2017). It also helps wildlife reclaim some of their ecological niches and restores the natural balance within those communities. 

Localization is a process of pulling back and realizing what’s important in our communities. It’s about re-establishing bonds and connections with both the people around you as well as the land we all live on. It’s about slowing down, appreciating everything that we have and moving forward in a deliberate and mindful way.

Local Food References

Amisson, L. (2020, September 14). Is Eating Locally Grown Food Healthier for You? . Retrieved March 6, 2021, from https://www.virtua.org/articles/is-eating-locally-grown-food-healthier-for-you

Dixon, J. M., Donati, K. J., Pike, L. L., & Hattersley, L. (2009). Functional foods and urban agriculture: two responses to climate change-related food insecurity. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin, 20(2), 14. https://doi.org/10.1071/NB08044

Horst, M., Mcclintock, N., & Hoey, L. (2017). The Intersection of Planning, Urban Agriculture, and Food Justice: A Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Planning Association, 83(3), 277–295. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2017.1322914

Norberg-Hodge, H. (2019). Local Is Our Future: Steps to an Economics of Happiness . Local Futures. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43274905-local-is-our-future

Weber, C. L., & Matthews, H. S. (2008). Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. _Environmental Science and Technology_, _42_(10), 3508–3513. https://doi.org/10.1021/es702969f

Get involved with our Food and Soil Team

Check out the team page or email us. at PublicPolicy@SanDiego350.org.

Members of the Month: A Youth Perspective

Members of the month: Megan Phelps, a fourth year UC Davis student and content volunteer; Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, a Hilltop High (Chula Vista) junior and Coordination Team member; and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee, a Baldwin School (Pennsylvania) senior leading the Production Team.

Interviews conducted and condensed by SD350 Volunteer Lorenzo Nericcio

This month, SD350 has selected three Youth Volunteers as the Members of the Month. Each helped coordinate and run the Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp—currently in its second session of the 2020 Summer—to help teens get more involved with the policy and outreach necessary to mitigate climate injustices in their communities.

Our three members of the month are: Megan Phelps, Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Megan: I got involved with SD350 when helping contribute to the Fight Like a Climate Activist Handbook that my mom (Jennifer Phelps) was writing last year. I then contributed to the Youth Summit this past spring. My heavy involvement really started with the Y4C Summer Camp!

Alexa: I first became involved with SD350 when I attended the Youth Climate Summit in my freshman year of high school in 2019. Recently, I became further involved when I joined the Youth Climate Leader weekly calls and eventually the Y4C Summer Camp Planning Team.

Izzy: I’ve been involved with SD350 for a couple of months now. During quarantine, I’ve been able to explore and pursue my interests more deeply. After learning more about climate change, I was determined to join a climate action organization, and I’m glad I found SD350!

What drives your activism?

Megan: My concern for the lives of people around the world and the biosphere that will be impacted by the destruction of climate change gives my activism purpose and meaning. I’m equally motivated by the people in the climate movement and the feeling that I can be creative in my activism!

Alexa: I’m driven by the feeling that, although as a Latina I represent a group who experience various disadvantages, I still have privilege and owe it to my community and all other BIPOC communities to use my own voice to amplifying those of others without a platform to speak for themselves.

Izzy: Coming from conservative background, I never really thought about activism. But, when I joined SD350, I realized that activism is a form of expression of passion about particular issues. My views have now changed, and I hope that others will join us in the fight for a more sustainable future!

What is your role within the Y4C Summer Camp, and how has this experience helped develop your leadership as a youth climate activist?

Megan: I have worked on the content team and have helped put on weekly live sessions, parties, and socials. Y4C has given me hope to see how strong, capable, and creative young people are. It’s a relief and an inspiration to see how the campers take the challenges and run with them!

Alexa: My role in the Y4C Summer Camp is as one of the co-leaders of the Overall Coordination team, which oversaw the work of the other teams in a way; it definitely taught me more about my capabilities as a leader, and pushed me to be more responsible and thoughtful of others.

Izzy: As a member of the planning team, I’ve been helping to prepare the Y4C Summer Camp for the past couple of months. I’m also the leader of the Production Team and a member of the Promotion Team. This has shown me how powerful and effective our voices can be in the climate movement.

What else would you like people to know about you?

Megan: I am so happy and feel so lucky to be alive during a time when I can enjoy so many beautiful things about the earth—the ocean (where I love to swim and bodysurf), great food (which I love to cook), birdsong, frog croaks, the smell of the SoCal sage, and my great family and wonderful friends (who support me in my activism and personal growth)!

Alexa: I’m always open to learning from my mistakes and am really passionate about what and who I love. I don’t believe environmental justice can be achieved without social justice, and I hope to one day live in a world where everyone is kinder to each other.

Izzy: I’ve been a certified scuba-diver since I was 12 (five years ago). I’ve always loved the ocean and been passionate about ocean conservation. After learning how increased carbon in our atmosphere affects the ocean’s acidity levels, I became more interested in learning about climate change. I’m really glad I joined SD350, and can’t wait for more to come!

Social Media and Climate Change Activism

Social media seems to be everywhere these days with over a billion people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other social media platforms. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the power of social media in our society.

For the issue of climate change to be front and center in the lives of everyday Americans and people around the world, we can leverage the benefits of social media in connecting like-minded people and creating a larger awareness of the climate change crisis. Anyone even mildly interested in social media can learn how to better use it as a tool to spread the word about climate change. Here are some ways social media can increase awareness of climate change and maybe even spur people to become involved in climate change activism at some level:

  • Change how people view climate change by posting images, facts, statistics and hyperlinks to relevant articles and by featuring in your posts people who are taking positive steps to address it.
  • Create engagement with friends/followers and shares/likes – people want to be engaged and feel connected. That’s why social media is so popular.
  • Build a support network around this issue – create a web of people to spread the word to their friends and followers and follow this issue that they care about, thus building bigger networks of change-makers.
  • Extend the reach of your posts to people beyond your usual circle by including relevant hashtags and tags.
  • Possibility of post going viral – viral posts have upwards of thousands or even millions of views, shares, and likes. With that kind of visibility and exposure, more people will start to contemplate your climate change message who might not otherwise even be aware of climate change.

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