Health and Well-being Local eating
The farm-to-table lifestyle
When considering one’s environmental footprint, diet is not typically an aspect that is stressed. But what we eat and where our food comes from both have a significant impact on our environment and community—on a local and global scale. And maintaining a locally sourced diet, with an emphasis on shortening the time between harvest and consumption, can have significant personal benefits.
“Locally sourcing harvests the item at its peak ripeness, which is important in obtaining nutrients,” said Kevin Erickson, the Urban Agriculture Coordinator at Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability. “Reducing the time allows for fresher product that tastes better and has more nutrition.”
And in many circumstances, this reduces the cost of items as well. Erickson said that since the distance products are being transported is less, locally sourced diets result in “less fossil fuels, less energy to store produce,” and benefit local economies. They’re also an investment in local communities by stimulating tax revenue and putting local farmland to use, and locally sourced products allow for more transparency between the seller and the buyer.
“When there’s no middleman between the farmer and the consumer, it allows the consumer to ask questions,” Erickson said. Buying locally can even improve food safety; the shorter the traveling distance, the less fewer people come in contact with the food.
There's also another option for obtaining locally-sourced foods: Those with the means, the space, and the know-how can always grow their own. Here at Loyola, students and faculty at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability manage several gardens, cultivating fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They even keep watch over two beehives on the Lake Shore Campus, extracting wax and honey. And up the road at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC) in Woodstock, Illinois, an on-site farm fully sustains the center’s dining hall.
Then there’s Loyola’s Urban Ag, a student organization that manages several campus gardens and aquaponic centers, promoting the design principle of permaculture. With the help of over 300 student volunteers and employees, Urban Ag harvests thousands of pounds of produce each year. Through these programs, Loyola’s sustainability efforts work in tandem to educate and benefit the surrounding community.