Why Local?

The main goal of our project is to supplement Bethesda Cares’ meal program for the homeless.  Instead of just raising funds to buy more food, the project uses local farmers’ unsold produce at the end of the market day.  By collecting excess donations, we save money and reduce food waste. A report in today’s Washington Post quotes one government study that 40 percent of food grown or raised domestically is not eaten. The EPA says that “food waste is now the largest single component in our landfills”.

Using locally grown produce has several other advantages that are wide-ranging and significant:

Local Food is fresher, healthier, and tastier.

Produce from a nearby farm that doesn’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles will inevitably be fresher.  Instead of being packaged and sitting for days or even weeks losing nutrients, produce from farmers’ markets is typically picked the day before it is sold.  A Harvard Medical School article entitled, “Is Local More Nutritious?” explains the true factors that detract nutrients.  Essentially, global food distributors have to focus on “shipability,” meaning that they want food that will make it through the time and distance it takes to get to the shelf.  Local farms are more concerned with taste; they won’t pick produce before its ripe just because it will be more durable.

For the homeless who rely on Bethesda Cares’ prepared meals, many who suffer from drug addiction, obesity, diabetes, or other illnesses, this may be their only meal of the day.  That’s why its so important that we serve food that retains its nutrients and flavor.

Local agriculture is better for the environment.

Industrial mechanized farming, processing and packaging, and long-distance transportation make food from around the globe dependent on fossil fuel and energy use.  Local crops require less water and result in lower emissions.  Instead of the monoculture crop system that most large scale agriculture corporations create, local produce often comes from farms that maintain “bio-diverse” crops, which is better for the soil and takes up less land.   Spiral Path Farm, our main produce donor, is a certified organic farm that  stopped using toxic chemicals and fertilizers more than 20 years ago.  The decision benefits the environment and creates healthier (and tastier) produce.

Buying local means supporting local.

Farmers who donate food to Bethesda Cares receive tax deductions. When you shop at a local farm market, the purchases you make support hard-working individuals and keep money flowing in our community.  There are few “middle-men” (if any) between the people who grow the food and the people who earn the money.

Local farms like Spiral Path support Farm to Freezer and by preparing their unsold produce. The Farm to Freezer project nourishes the hungry, improves the environment, reduces food waste, and supports our local economy  What can you do? You can buy from farmers’ markets or sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) like the one that Spiral Path offers.  Even if you shop at a supermarket, you can shop by what’s in season and ask where your food comes from.

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