Food miles: how far have your fruit and vegetables travelled?

The term ‘food miles’ is used to describe the distance a commodity is transported from production to consumption (the distance and energy it takes to transport the food to your plate). Eating in season and choosing locally grown produce are two easy ways to reduce food miles, which is better for the environment and supportive of our local economy.
As a result of globalisation, a diverse range of fruit and vegetables can be purchased and consumed almost year round. Fruit and vegetables often have a particular time of year when conditions favour optimal quality. What does this mean? If there is a high demand for mangoes out of season, we will get mangoes out of season – although it may have to travel some 2052km before it reaches our supermarkets to satisfy our demand. But hey, we get mangoes nonetheless! Often this means that produce is harvested prematurely and undergo several post harvest storage and handling procedures to prevent further loss of quality.
In the United States, approximately 40% of its fruit is imported from overseas despite the capacity and capability for locally grown sources. For example, though broccoli can easily be grown on U.S. soil, majority of the broccoli sold in U.S. supermarkets have travelled an average of 2900km before it reaches its destination! It shouldn’t be surprising then that the food miles for items bought in a grocery store are on average, 27 times higher than the food miles for items bought from local sources.
It is important that we pay more attention to where our food is coming from and how it is grown. Consumers are key stakeholders in the food supply system and we have the ability to potentially influence the system. We obtain a purchasing power and suppliers will respond to areas of greatest consumer demand. Therefore, if consumers shifted their purchasing power to support and buy locally grown seasonal produce, this will decrease demand for imported and domestically transported fruit and vegetables that are available out of peak season. Subsequently, food miles will be reduced significantly and the quality of fruit and vegetables is not compromised.
– Just one way we can take care of our environment and support local producers 🙂

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