Today's HA Column: Living Local

WHEN I HEARD snow was on the way last week, I did what I always do when there’s even a slight chance of power outages – I bought peanut butter, bread, and pre-packaged snacks.

I may not be the best person to tout the benefits of eating locally grown whole foods, but that’s exactly what I want to do.

I’ve been inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” to be more aware of the content and origins of my food. The book is about Kingsolver’s own efforts at living primarily on local foods. She claims this is the healthiest way of life as well as being the most environmentally conscientious.

I never put that much thought into how far my food traveled before it reached me or how much fuel was burned to bring it to me. Nor did I think about the fact that processed foods with many ingredients require all of those ingredients to be transported first to a factory and then out again to stores, with each leg of the journey encompassing possibly hundreds of miles.

Kingsolver, along with Michael Pollan (“In Defense of Food”) and Wendell Berry (“Bringing It to the Table”), pointed it out to me.

I have thought about the health issues of eating too much processed food, and I agree with Kingsolver that freshly grown whole foods from your own garden are the best possible choice. Unfortunately, I’m a busy person who doesn’t spend a lot of time digging in the dirt. Fortunately, Hattiesburg is not a bad place to live for local eaters.

We have an excellent farmer’s market, and in Ellisville where I work there is a beautiful fruit stand that sells local produce. I’m convinced these are the places to buy the best tasting and healthiest foods. This won’t stop me from using up my emergency peanut butter on Sara Lee bread, but it does mean I’m more likely to buy at least a portion of my food from local farmers, and that’s a real start.

Kingsolver says that even a 10 percent change toward local eating is enough to mean an astounding savings in fuel consumption and an astounding boost for the economy of local agriculture. I may never reach 100 percent or even 80 percent, but I can do my 10 percent.

Read Kingsolver if you’re interested in learning more about local living. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a wonderful book.

~Published today in the Hattiesburg American.