Friday, March 28, 2014

Farm to Fork - Why Buy Fresh & Local Food?

Board-certified bariatric surgeon Dr. Michael Feiz frequently counsels his patients on healthy eating, and then they often become experts in what is healthy food. One thing patients sometimes ask Dr. Feiz is, "should I buy local food?" Here's his take on local food and healthy eating!

Local food is more sustainable because it is grown on a community farm with different kinds of crops and animals. Because it travels a shorter distance, it doesn't need to be processed to enhance freshness before it reaches your plate. The farms which are local and sustainable aren't owned by big agribusiness companies which strive for a profit above all else. What makes a farm sustainable is the fact that it doesn't rely on artificial fertilizer, pesticides, heavy machinery, antibiotics, feedlots, and processing plants. Sustainable food isn't an industrial machine which relies on massive amounts of fossil fuel to deliver its product. 

Dr. Feiz, a renowned Southern California bariatric surgeon, recommends patients looking to support fresh, local food by the employing the following practices:

           CSA – Community Supported Agriculture
A CSA provides an opportunity for a family to support a local farm for a few hundred dollars a year, and in return they receive a weekly box of fresh produce. By paying in advance, the cost of seeds and planting crops are covered by the consumers. Members are also encouraged to visit the farm and volunteer there to see how their food is grown. 
 Farmers Market
If you’re interested in supporting the local economy, look no further than your neighborhood farmers market. Farmers markets enable farmers to keep up to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer. Farmers markets are comprised of a number of local producers who gather together to sell their wares to residents of the community. By patronizing farmers markets, you help keep small family farms in business, while benefitting both the farmer and yourself. While at the farmers market, you can ask the farmer specifics about their farm and how produce is grown and animals are raised. You can ask include what kind of pest control methods are used, which fertilizers are used, how many different types of produce are grown, and if the farm is certified organic, biodynamic, or naturally grown.
 “Pick your own” Farm
Some farms which offer fruits allow members of the public to come and pick their own produce at farms such as an apple orchard, berry growers, or a pumpkin patch. Usually the producer will set a price for a bushel or pint, and families can go into the fields and pick their own food. Some farms also allow consumers to choose the animal they would like to purchase for consumption before it is slaughtered.
  Food Co-ops -- Co-operative Grocery Stores
These voluntary organizations are controlled by members to provide low cost, healthy food both to members and the public, while individuals belonging to the co-op have a say in decision-making of business practices. Most of these food co-ops are organic or produced with a minimum of processing.
Food buying clubs
By organizing a group of people to buy food in bulk, members can expect to get discounts. Usually the groups are either friends or members of a group, such as a church organization, who share the chores of collecting money and placing orders with the distributor. Regional distributors also provide food to co-op stores.
Home delivery service
Similar to a CSA, this service is a burgeoning industry which takes local food and sends boxes of fresh meat and produce to members. The box’s contents change weekly as seasonal produce changes. Members can choose the type of produce, ready-made items, or meat they want. Boxes can contain fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, bread, pasta, and dry goods.

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