October brings the beautiful colors of fall leaves to Iowa. The trees are changing colors, and a mixture of red, orange, yellow, green and gold can be seen and enjoyed wherever we go. October is also Local Food Month. In addition to enjoying the colorful leaves this month, be sure to enjoy the many colors and varieties of locally grown foods!
Purchasing local foods is often the healthiest way to feed your family. And when you buy locally, you are supporting your local farmers, small businesses and your community.
Local food is always fresh, nutritious and full of flavor. Foods that have to travel over long distances to get to our grocery stores have to be picked early and left to ripen while in transit or storage. The more local your food is, the shorter the amount of time it takes for it to go from farm to table. With less time in transit and storage, fresh foods can be left to ripen in the fields and gardens, thus providing us with more flavor and nutrition. And an added benefit is that fresh foods will last longer.
Buying fresh locally grown foods has less of a harmful impact on our environment since the foods do not have to be packaged for transport. Without the packaging, eating local is an overall better choice for the environment.
Choosing to purchase your food locally allows you to learn about new foods and experiment with new recipes, flavors and varieties. Have you ever compared the variety of produce available at Farmers Markets compared to what is available at the grocery store?
Eating local also means eating with the seasons. Eating seasonally means you are always eating the freshest, most nutritious foods. For example, in-season locally grown tomatoes burst with flavor compared to tomatoes purchased during the winter months. And there is no comparison to the flavor and sweetness of strawberries fresh from the patch to those that are shipped long distances to Iowa during the winter. And think about the difference in taste between locally grown fresh picked lettuce and lettuce that was picked, factory washed, and sealed in plastic before shipping to us.
Eating local foods is better for you and your family, for the environment, and for your taste buds. So, when you head out this fall to enjoy the colors of fall leaves, be sure to include the colors of our locally grown foods also. You will find red, green and yellow apples, orange carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, green, red, yellow and orange peppers, golden butternut squash, and green and red cabbage. Enjoy all of the colors Iowa has to offer this Fall!
Author: Vicki Starks, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative Early Childhood Education Associate for Fayette County.