After reviewing Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, it got me thinking about the benefits of shopping and eating locally. We as consumers have always been encouraged to do so, but why?
Local First Arizona, a statewide non-profit organization, cites a few studies to support the fact that when money is spent on local businesses, it creates a great economic benefit for the entire community (1). In 2009, Urban Conservancy in partnership with Civic Economics found that when just 10% of New Orleans spending was shifted from chain-stores to their local counterparts, hundreds of jobs were created and it was the monetary equivalent of putting 60 million dollars annually into the recirculating cycle of currency (2). Secondly, a study by Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Friends of Midcoast Maine in 2003 claims that when $100 is spent at a large chain store, only $14 is then spent again by that merchant within the community. Whereas when that initial $100 is spent locally, $45 (that’s triple!) will be spent again in the surrounding area (3).
Local businesses usually strive to provide superior customer service because the owner belongs to the same community you do; which would explain why small businesses typically donate almost twice as much per employee to charity organizations (4). Local shops add charm and character to the area, and can sell unique things that big-box stores may not have enough of to sufficiently stock.
In reference to food specifically, when items have to travel long distances it uses an enormous amount of fuel. If only 10% of ingredients were sourced from a state grower instead of corporate farm, it would save 310,000 gallons of fuel annually according to www.elocal.com (5). Additionally, food that takes a while to get from farm to table demands special packing and storing methods that are typically not recycled to keep the food from spoiling.
Farmers markets are a great place to buy locally grown food. The food often looks and tastes better because it’s grown in it’s natural season, picked at the perfect time, and doesn’t need added preservatives. Farmers markets are also a great place to meet other community members who care about locally sourced food, as well as grab a bargain because the middleman and transportation costs are eliminated. And, you likely get to talk to the person who actually grew your food — how cool is that!
It’s not easy to run a successful local business, in fact according to Forbes 80% of entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months (6). While not every store can be a mom and pop type shop, there are stores making an effort to support the local community in other ways. Sprouts Farmers Market, native to Arizona, is a farmers market style grocer that sources many products from local farmers and donates to community organizations. Whole Foods Market donates food products and profits to local organizations in need throughout the year, and launched the Producer Loan Program in 2006 to give a hand to community farmers and help them grow as business owners and producers. (7)
In summary, shopping local helps financially support those living in and caring for your community.
While working on this post, I found a website where you can search for local farmers markets near you: www.localharvest.org. Also, If you’re in Arizona you can usehttp://www.localfirstaz.com/directory/ to find businesses near you that are locally owned and operated. Or, try a Google search for a similar organization in your state to find places near you to shop local!