Buying and eating local foods can be great for your health and a great way to support your community. Studies point to many benefits of adding fresh unprocessed food into our diets and, as a bonus, by investing your money into purchasing local foods a positive feedback loop is created around where the food is produced. Dollars stay in the community and bolster the local economy, famers can stay in business, and precious farmland is preserved.
Who has access to local food? Opportunities for accessing local foods are growing by leaps and bounds. See some ideas below for sourcing local food and ask around in your area about what’s available. You may be surprised how much local food might be accessible right in your neighborhood!
- Shop at farmer’s markets. Not all food at markets is guaranteed to be local, but simply asking vendors where they source their goods will resolve any question. To find a farmer’s market near you start with this great resource created by the SC Dept. of Agriculture.
- In South Carolina many farmers markets take “Healthy Bucks” which allows SNAP recipients to use their benefits at farmers markets. Here is more information on the Healthy Bucks Program.
- The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a seasonal program to provide participants with fresh, nutritious, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets. Persons age 60 and older who are residents of the participating counties are eligible to apply in-person at a distributing agency.
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This lets you purchase a share of produce grown on a farm, usually provided in “shares” on a weekly basis. Participants often pick up their produce directly from the farm or at a designated pickup point. Find a CSA program near you.
- Ask about local ingredients on menus at your favorite restaurants; and order them! GrowFood Carolina, South Carolina’s first food hub, is working hard along with other food hubs around the state to be sure restaurants, grocery stores and other outlets have a consistent supply of locally produced food to offer. Chefs often work directly with farmers to purchase local produce too!
- Order local food online. Virtual farmers markets are popping up everywhere. These convenient tools offer a way to select and purchase your local food online and then pick up at a convenient location soon after it is harvested! Two great examples of this in South Carolina include Catawba Fresh Market (serving Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Union, York Counties and the Catawba Indian Nation) and Clemson Area Food Exchange serving the Upstate.
- Change your shopping habits. Look for signs at your grocery store pointing out local products and buy them! If your store doesn’t have a local food buying plan talk with the managers and request more local foods!
- Grow your own! Not many things are more rewarding than walking into your own yard, or onto your patio and harvesting food you’ve grown yourself.
- Pick your own. U-pick operations abound in South Carolina. You can find operations throughout the state that welcome guests onto their farms to pick their own food including berries, muscadines, figs, apples, pumpkins, and more. Try an online search for U-pick operations near you or use a U-pick operation finder to help you.
Happy, healthy eating!