The notion of eating local food is encouraged and promoted as it encourages trade and positively impacts the surrounding local economy.
Local food is categorized as food grown within a 100mile or 160km radius. Local food activists argue that the consumption of local produce additionally reduces environmental impact as eating food from other regions increases “food miles” otherwise known as the greenhouse gas emissions that the production and transportation of food/agriculture from farm to plate. Conversely, the other side of the food miles debate argues that food miles relies purely on the mode of transportation not the distance. Trains are then most efficient mode of transport (up to ten times) in comparison to trucks. A reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by only 5% would be witnessed if food miles were reduced to zero.
A nutritionally sound diet of local food is only available to a very limited population, it is extremely difficult and possibly detrimental to health for people to consume exclusively local food. As part of the Australian Dietary Guidelines it is recommended that individuals “Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from..five food groups every day” although due to the size and terrain in Australia this is not possible. For example in coastal regions it will be extremely difficult to access grains and red meat within a 160km radius. On the contrary locations in Central Australia for example Alice Springs rely heavily on the transportation of fruit, vegetables and produce from Adelaide and Darwin which are over 1,500km away.
Australia is fortunate to have a large amount of agriculturally favourable land which allows Australians to consume large quantities of Australian grown produce. In parts of Africa there is low consumption of vegetables and dairy due to unsuitable which has led to inadequate consumption of vitamin A and calcium of 70 and 80%. Additionally, due to the importation of fruit and vegetables from overseas Australian’s have access to food that is not necessarily grown or in season in Australia.
The “food miles” argument is invalid as the importation and transport of produce national and internationally has little effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it is next to impossible for an Australian to be able to obtain a diet that reaches the Australian Dietary Guidelines by consuming a diet of exclusively local food.