Buying Local Foods
The economic and environmental way to get food.
In total, the U.S. imports 15% of all its foods. Every year, more than $600 billion is spent on food in the US; most of this food is purchased in grocery stores and supermarkets. Fortunately, the local food movement is beginning to grow substantially and is expected to show even greater expansion in the future.
Purchasing local foods stimulates the local economies they come from, plain and simple. Jobs are created and sustained and the community earns money in taxes, so long as demand continues. The community thrives and grows!
In reality, more often than not, when you buy food, it is produced as close to home as possible. Buying local food supports more sustainable food systems by going beyond the methods used currently in food production. Sustainable agriculture involves healthy food production methods, like reduction in pesticide use, balancing demand based on local needs and involves less environmentally harmful equipment and practices -- namely, in decreasing transportation needs.
By contrast, industrial food production is almost completely dependent on the finite amount of fossil fuels, which create more greenhouse gases that are statistically significant to climate change. By adding transportation of food, processing and packaging the food into the big picture, the fossil fuel and energy use of our current food system puts A LOT of stress on our environment.
Overall, in reducing these needs, you are minimizing environmental costs. And what comes with decreased transportation costs is less gas, which of course leads to fewer greenhouse emissions in the air and reduced need for finite fossil fuels.
Despite the lack of numerous and highly successful environmental benefits, that does leave room (and money) to work on improving conditions so the already good conditions will be better. It is pretty likely that these systems will improve the efficiency of the distribution of these locally produced foods so long as there is continuous and/or growing interest in the industry over the next few years.
As you might imagine, locally purchased food is usually significantly fresher than imported foods. When you buy imported food, it is not always easy to tell the quality of water used to produce food, the types of pesticides used, or other things that can impact the healthfulness of your food -- and your own health. But purchasing locally decreases these unknown questions, since you also know a little bit more about quality control with your locally produced food; that is, you know that the food you are currently buying meets the standard for U.S. requirements.
The extent to which the planet and yourself can benefit in term of health and well-being depends mostly on your region's ability to localize and control majority of its expected impacts as well as providing a diversity among food -- so not to be boring or mundane. It sounds like a tall order, but other communities have successfully been able to achieve such goals.