In our major supermarkets we are able to purchase produce that used to be available only at certain times of the year in certain parts of the world. While this abundance might be convenient, it comes at a cost. Produce imported from long distances loses both flavor and nutrients by the time we eat it. When we rely upon imported produce, we lose out on genetic diversity; in modern industrial agriculture, varieties of produce are chosen for their ability to withstand packing and shipping and survive for long periods on a shelf. Finally, when our produce comes from outside of our communities, local farmers suffer, and as they are forced to close their operations, we lose the green spaces they preserve for us. How can we strengthen our local food systems in order to promote health, taste, variety, and support our farmers? By following the example of the Lane County Food Coalition.
The Lane County Food Coalition is a non-profit, community organization committed to developing a sustainable food system in Lane County (OR). The Coalition formed in 1979 as the Edible City Resource Center with the broad goal of promoting urban gardening and increasing awareness of food issues. Over time the organization changed its name and became more specific in its mandate. Today the Coalition seeks to “facilitate greater understanding about the environmental, economic and social impacts of…food choices, and support the purchase of locally produced food to benefit the farming community and strengthen the local economy.”
Toward these ends, the Lane County Food Coalition has undertaken two main projects. The Coalition’s Buy Local/Buy Lane Campaign promotes awareness of the environmental, economic and social benefits of eating locally grown and locally processed products. The campaign also works to strengthen connections between farmers and consumers and to increase the sale of local products. To support these goals, the Campaign created a Buy Local/Buy Lane Directory that informs consumers where they can purchase local food. The Campaign also developed point-of-purchase materials that provide information about buying locally produced foods and sponsors events that link growers, processors, consumers, and restaurateurs.
The Coalition’s second major project is its Food System Assessment. This research project focuses on several topics. It is assessing where the food that is consumed in Lane County comes from, what the role of local farmers, wholesalers, and retailers are in the food distribution network, and how the production and availability of locally grown foods might be promoted. The assessment committee is working to quantify what percentage of food purchased in Lane County is grown there and will then assess how to increase the purchase of such foods.
The Lane County Food Coalition offers excellent suggestions that might be followed by anyone interested in bolstering a local food system: shop at a farmers’ market; buy locally grown produce at the grocery store; purchase locally-processed foods; eat at restaurants that use local ingredients; grow vegetables at home or in a community garden; teach your children where their food comes from; and educate yourself about your local food system.
Contact Group: Lane County Food Coalition
Address: 120 Broadway
Eugene, OR 97401
Web site: www.lanefood.org