Our Food Miles

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Reusable shopping bagConcept of Food Miles

The concept of food miles is used to highlight the social, economical and environmental costs of importing food from abroad or long distances inland.  It describes in simple terms the increasing distance that food moves on its journey from farm or producer to where it is consumed - or 'farm to fork'. 

There are various reasons why thinking about the food miles of a particular product can be important. 

The environmental costs of transporting food over large distances is one important aspect.  Transporting food may involve road, truck, plane or cargo ship travel or any combination of these, with refrigeration and the manufacture of additional packaging  - all meaning use of fossil fuels and the resultant carbon emissions, in addition to potential health problems from air pollution. 

Roads become congested, and food needs even more processing and preservatives to preserve it over the long distances that it has to travel to reach the plate. 

Supporting small scale shops, or stores who source produce from locally based farmers can help prevent your food from traveling huge distances to reach you, when another good source is a few miles away.  Buying local also stimulates our local economy. 

Farmers markets are a great place to source fresh produce, for information on the farmers markets of Charlottesville, please CLICK HERE

 

 

According to the Worldwatch Institute, American food travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table.

 

Below is a map of various example foods - and the miles that they travel to reach us in Charlottesville.  All distances are measured in a straight line from the center of the country of origin. 

1    Carrots from San Joaquin, California
2,276 miles
2    Cheese from France
3,931 miles
3    Pasta from Italy
4,585 miles
4    Dried Fruit from Turkey
5,523 miles
5    Tea from India
8,311 miles
6    Canned Tuna from the Philippines 8,595 miles
7    Dates from Egypt 
5,912 miles
8    Coffee from Sumatra
10,200 miles
9    Chocolate from Ghana
5,349 miles
10   Fresh Tuna from Trinidad and Tobago
2,192 miles
11   Coffee from Brazil
4,219 miles
12   Bananas from Colombia
2,365 miles

 

A Swedish study looked at the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast -- apple, bread, butter, cheese, coffee, cream, orange juice, and sugar - and determined the food traveled a distance equivalent to the circumference of the earth. That's 24,901 miles.

 


  But what if not all of my favorite foods are available locally? 

Coffee from around the worldMany of the foods that we consume are not indigenous to the USA – many of the foods listed above for example, and tropical fruit.  

Some food researchers argue that energy and resources are actually saved when buying food from the region of the world where it naturally grows best, not where it has to be grown with the use of many chemical fertilizers and much energy expenditure. 

By concentrating on buying fruits and vegetables when they are naturally in season, buying locally - or if not available locally then purchasing it from where the item grows best -plus purchasing Fair Trade products, consumers are able to cut down on their food miles substantially and get fresher, better tasting produce!