New farmland-mapping research shows the country’s surprising potential when it comes to eating more locally.
In all the years that I’ve been writing about choosing food grown nearby, the irony that persists is this: I can easily find and purchase food that was grown within 100 miles of my New York City address, but people who live in the middle of farming country cannot. If you ask me, that speaks of a screwy food system in need of help. We grow so much food in this country, yet the average food item travels, by one oft-quoted statistic, some 1,500 miles to reach our plates. Food miles aren't the only important thing when it comes to eating sustainably, but if we could make some shifts toward opting for things that were produced more closely, it would clearly be helpful.
But would it be possible for everyone to eat locally? According to a new study by Elliott Campbell, a professor at the University of California, Merced, it is. In his research, he found that in fact, 90 percent of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes. It's hypothetical of course, but the potential is intriguing. And hopeful.
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