What Does Local Food Mean?

Recently, members of the Douglas County Food Policy Council received an education in the difficulty of defining “local food.” It’s funny...when examined separately, the definitions of the words “local” and “food” are hardly debatable.

lo·cal [loh-kuh l] adjective pertaining to, characteristic of, or restricted to a particular place or particular places

food [food] noun any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.

Pretty straightforward, right? However, something magical or…um…interesting...perhaps even frustrating happens when they’re combined into the phrase “local food”. What once was a simple concept now becomes a point of disagreement, even passionate debate.

You could talk with a dozen people and unearth a dozen different answers to the question, “What does local food mean to you?”

Or, if you’re the Douglas County Food Policy Council, you could talk with 120 people at the County Fair and receive 120 different responses. At our booth at this year’s County Fair, we asked passersby to help us define local food and contribute their thoughts to the ever-expanding conversation about food in our county. Here are some of the responses we received:

“Supporting my community and fellow neighbor/vendor/small business thrive and grow and prosper as well as getting quality food.”

“Better tasting food more nutritious. Yummy!!!”

“Keeping the local economy strong.”

“Trusting what I eat and being confident that I'm supporting my community.”

“My food is not tired from traveling and it is fresher.”

“To me, local food means any food from a small family owned and operated, organic and within 200 miles.”

“Supporting our hard-working farmer and growing a garden of our own.” “More full stomachs in the world.”

As you can see, there are some common themes among the responses, but there certainly is not firm consensus. It is with that in mind why the Food Policy Council continues to be very deliberate and thoughtful in our discussion and strategic planning. The diversity of thought we saw at the fair is reflected in the wonderful group of volunteers of which the council is made. The Food Policy Council is poised to help facilitate meaningful conversation about food and begin turning ideas into action around how it can be a solution to a number of challenges our community faces.

Tagged: Local Food

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