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Local Flavors

Explore growing, preparing, & preserving local food in rural central Illinois and the community impact of buying local
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Challenge to Eat Local

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

Perusing through your home cabinets and refrigerator, how much of the food is grown within 100 miles of your home? Do you know where to purchase foods produced locally outside the grocery store? Unsure what to do with all that extra asparagus from the garden? Uncertain how to prepare garden fresh turnips for lunch? Curious about growing your own vegetables? The new Local Flavors blog is a great place to start getting those questions answered. Andrew Holsinger, Horticulture Educator, Terri Miller, Publicity and Promotion Specialist, and Lisa Peterson, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, are taking on the task of providing research based information on the positive economic impact of locally grown foods and businesses, and how to best grow, prepare, and preserve foods grown in the Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County region.

University of Illinois Extension is excited to announce a challenge for the citizens of Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County to grow, purchase, and eat locally from May through September. Throughout the Summer and early Fall, University of Illinois Extension will be offering growing, cooking, and preservation classes throughout Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County focusing on locally grown foods. The goal of the challenge is to make the public more aware of local growers, increase confidence in growing, caring for, preserving and preparing local foods, and for the citizens in the Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County to support each other in making healthy lifestyle choices.

For the purpose of the challenge, local food is food produced in the Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County region; whether, directly from a local grower, purchased at a farmers market, or food produced in a home garden. The definition of local food varies based on region. Generally, local food is a minimal distance from production to consumption. Join Extension as we take on an adventure this summer to become better locavores.

Why eat and buy local?

Food purchased locally has a positive effect on the community, health, and the environment.

  • Protect the environment. Most of the food sold in the grocery store travels 1,500 miles to the grocery store. Food produced and purchased locally cuts back on transportation costs from farm to fork reducing air pollution, fossil fuel burned, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Support the local economy. Locally purchased foods helps keep the money within the community. Research shows, on average, 65% of your dollar stays within the community when purchasing food locally as opposed to only 40% when shopping at larger chain stores.
  • Learn and trust where food is coming from. Going to a farmers market and purchasing food from a local grower is an opportunity to discover how local foods are grown, processed, and additional suggestions for preparation directly from the producer. By purchasing food locally, you can talk to the grower and know exactly what is in the foods you and your family are eating.
  • Swap processed food for garden fresh options. Eating fresh food from a farmers market or local growers can also replace foods that require more preservatives that can be high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The longer fresh produce sits after harvest the greater decrease in nutritional value. After fresh produce is harvested vitamins such as A, C, and, E begin to deteriorate. When preparing fresh produce from a local farmer, the food is closer to its optimal nutritional state compared to the produce that required processing and shipping.
  • Food Safety. Purchasing locally reduces the distance and time food travels from farm to fork, cutting down on the risk for contamination.
  • Self-Satisfaction. Growing your own food is the ultimate form of eating local! Research indicates gardening is not only a moderate-intensity form of exercise, but also a scientifically proven form of stress relief, increased recovery from mental fatigue, restores concentration, and improves productivity.

Join the conversation by following the Unit 18 Eat Local Challenge on Facebook. Share your favorite seasonal recipes, great finds at local farmers markets, challenges in growing and eating locally, learn about upcoming classes, find additional information about growing and caring for a garden and seasonal recipes. Feel free to ask growing, cooking, preservation questions.

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