A new survey from Forager shows that consumers are increasingly looking for the freshest produce with the lowest carbon footprint — in other words, local.
“The overall quality and variety of nutrients may be better in locally sourced produce, which, since it doesn’t need to travel long distances, can be picked at its peak ripeness,” said dietitian Lauren Parsly, MPH, RD, LDN, Tufts Medical Center. “Local, independent farms tend to use agricultural methods that result in better soil quality than conventional farming. Better quality leads to better taste, a real motivator for keeping up an increased level of fruit and vegetables in our daily diets.”
Parsly sees a strong tie between healthy eating and a healthy planet.
“There is a wide-ranging trend towards consuming fewer processed foods and increasing fresh food intake,” she said. “Not only are there cardiovascular benefits to plant-based eating, but there are sustainability benefits as well. Many local and small farmers practice sustainable and organic farming methods that reduce exposure to pesticides.”
Forager, whose digital procurement platform connects local farmers with grocers to bring consumers locally grown food, asked consumers what they saw as the top benefits of going local — and whether they’d change their buying habits if it meant better access to local produce.
The survey found that local food is ticking off all the boxes for healthy living in 2020. Respondents identified their top two food-related goals for 2020 as “eating healthier” (86%) and nearly a third identified “eating more sustainably and reducing my carbon footprint.”
The benefits of eating local are myriad, according to Parsly.
“Local food builds a more intimate relationship with the food you eat,” she said. “We’ve lost sight of how good food is for us, how it is our source of energy and fuel for our body. If more people understood where their food comes from and how it was cultivated, there would be a deeper appreciation, a more mindful approach to what they eat.”
Seventy-three percent of respondents were either “somewhat” or “not” satisfied with the quality and availability of local food at their regular grocery store.
No surprise then that 80% said they’re likely to change where they shop, if more local food were to be made available at a different grocery store and year-round. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they’d be likely to buy more local food if more was available at stores during the winter months. And over three-quarters of respondents would be willing to pay up to 20% more for local food.
“Rosemont sources from a vast array of small farmers and producers across Maine. Our local producers, and our relationships with them are the heart and soul of our company. Customers know that these relationships provide them with the freshest, best food year-round. While individual products may come in and out of style, fresh and local is always in,” said John Schreiber, Head of Purchasing, Rosemont Market and Bakery. “Forager is an important partner is maintaining our relationship with producers. By removing the friction of invoicing and billing, we have more time to focus on what matters.”
More than 100,000 local products have now been sourced through Forager according to David Stone, the company’s founder and chairman.
The mission of Forager is to accelerate the growth of the local food economy and make locally sourced food more widely available to all. The company’s online and mobile platform digitizes and streamlines the procurement-to-payment process, saving time and costs for grocers, co-ops, farmers, producers and other buyers and sellers of local food.