Food and Family

Local food consumers are the driving force behind the very strong local food movement across the globe. For many reasons, consumers are choosing local food and expecting high quality local food products to be produced and distributed within their geographical region. A few of those reasons for choosing local food are a desire for knowledge, active participation, and greater transparency in the production and consumption of food.

Increasing knowledge on local food is first the step many individuals and families take to connect with their local food economy. As a way to meet that demand, Purdue Extension has created an imitative called FoodLink. FoodLink helps families learn about how to choose and prepare fruits and vegetables. Additionally, it has information on when the best time of year is to buy local fruits and vegetables. Eating seasonally has benefits like fruits and vegetables at the peak of flavor and sometimes at their lowest prices. In order to capture both those benefits, consumers are learning about food preservation methods like canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, and drying. Purdue hosts resources for preservation and has a class called Master Preserver that can help families extend the value and taste of seasonal food to the rest of the year. Gaining knowledge in food preservation also helps reduce food waste and allows people to do their part to reduce food waste.

Increasing participation in food initiatives, like food waste, at the local level is becoming more common. When it comes to the food waste in North America, consumers waste more food than the waste that happens during harvest. Similarly, a local salad initiative at Purdue hopes to reduce food waste as well as increase student participation in growing their food. More broadly, participation in local food is also happening at the farm itself in the form of agritourism. Agritourism like u-pick orchards or on-farm stores and restaurants offer a glimpse into the rest of agriculture. Agritourism has the three-fold benefit of being capable of improving knowledge of agriculture, increasing participation in agriculture by consumers, and adding transparency about the production of food.

Transparency has been a leading issue for many consumers. Since it isn’t feasible for every family to have a direct relationship with every farmer that supplies them food, there are several standards and labels for food products. Labels are used to identify products produced in a way that is compatible with concerns about animal welfare, environmental protection, place of production, and food safety. Increasingly, consumers are rejecting an anonymous food-supply chain. It’s now not enough to know what’s in your food. Consumers want to know how and where food was produced.

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