On March 15, the Virginia Food System Council, along with other food and agriculture organizations, is rolling out a challenge to all Virginia households to spend at least $10 per week on locally-grown foods and beverages.
The impact of this statewide decision by households to support local agriculture would be dramatic. According to research by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, even this small amount spent on locally-grown food and food products over a year would generate an additional $1.65 billion back into our local economy.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan reports that "Every million dollars in sales through local markets supports 13 jobs… This compares to [only] three jobs generated from every million dollars in sales by agricultural operations that don't have a local or regional focus."
Other organizations joining the council to promote this challenge include the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapters and the Virginia Dietetic Association. The council, which includes representatives of all the sectors of Virginia’s food system (producers, distributors, consumers, government, health, anti-hunger efforts, environmental conservation and schools), also sees this $10/Week Challenge as a jumpstart to the recently rolled out Virginia Farm to Table Plan. Learn about the Plan at www.virginiafoodsystemcouncil.org.
Council Chairman Don Loock said, “This exciting initiative gives everyone in the commonwealth the power to make meaningful change in their communities. By voting with our wallets, we all can help create jobs, grow our local economy, keep family farms working and sustainable, all while eating delicious and healthy foods. Doing well never tasted so great.”
Why is This Challenge Important to Virginians?
- Buying locally creates jobs and keeps more dollars circulating within the local economy. Local sales also support more local jobs for a win-win situation.
- Locally-grown foods don’t have to endure long storage and long-distance travel, so they are generally far more flavorful, fresher and retain more health-building nutrients.
- Virginians do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, which is a major deficiency in our diets contributing to the major chronic disease states. When these foods are locally grown, garden-fresh and flavor-rich, both adults and children increase their intake and therefore improve their health.
- When consumers shop at farmers’ markets, roadside stands or farms, they get to know their farmers and value the sense of trust and community with those who grow their food.
How Can Households Easily Access Locally-Grown Foods?
- Look for “Virginia Grown” or “Virginia’s Finest” logos wherever you shop. The Virginia Grown program’s logo and labels help consumers easily identify locally-grown products in the marketplace. Its user-friendly website VirginiaGrown.com lists pick-your-own farms, farm stands and farmers’ markets per community. See www.vdacs.virginia.gov/virginiafinest/index.shtml for a Virginia’s Finest Directory.
- Look at VDACS’ Eat Local listings, including winter and year-round markets, on its website at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/news/buylocal.shtml.
- The Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads food guide and website is another site to search for local farms and markets. www.buylocalhamptonroads.org
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and buy a subscription for a weekly delivery of seasonal foods throughout the season. Go to www.vdacs.virginia.gov/news/releases-a/010612csa.shtml for more information.
- Check out online sources for ordering and buying local foods
- Buy Virginia wine for its renowned reputation worldwide. See www.virginiawine.org for a map of wineries.
- Choose restaurants that feature local products on their menus. They usually provide information about the farms, fisheries, farmers and food artisans.
- Check wherever you shop for locally-produced items. Look for store labels indicating locally-grown produce, fish, seafood and meats, as well as locally-produced milk, eggs, honey, cheese, specialty items and more.
- If you are not able to find food labeled as locally-produced, talk with the store managers and let them know your preference for buying local foods. If there is enough demand, it will be in their best interest to offer these foods.
For more information contact Mel Atkinson at (757) 385-4388.