Alternative food networks are drawing increasing numbers of people who are looking to connect with ethical food producers, and the result may be healthier eating for consumers, according to research by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Alternative food programs include items such as:
Organic vegetable boxes
Farm animal adoption People who participated in alternative food networks such as these, typically:
Increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables
Improved their cooking skills
Improved their knowledge about food
Changed their behaviors in relation to other goods, such as household products and clothes Consumers often use alternative food networks because they are concerned about the separation of food producers and consumers. Many also say they do not trust supermarkets, or they feel supermarket food is inferior.
Although many consumers use alternative food networks along with supermarkets, many said they only shopped at supermarkets “out of necessity.” Other key motivations for using alternative food networks included the desire to:
Reduce food miles
Use fair-trade goods whenever possible
Use products with reduced environmental impacts and high animal welfare standards Consumers also value the sense of trust and loyalty that they can establish with a food producer. However, some alternative food producers are concerned about how to maintain this connection as growth continues.
Meanwhile, alternative food networks may be challenged by supermarkets that are attempting to establish a sense of connection with customers by providing the names of farmers on packaging. Semi-national organic box delivery programs are also rapidly expanding, which could challenge smaller, more local alternative food networks.
With a decentralized, locally based food system, when things go wrong, fewer people are affected and the problem can be easily tracked to its source.
Great Alternatives to Your Supermarket
I would go so far as to say that the less you visit your local supermarket, the healthier you will tend to be. Whether you try out farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture programs, or a box delivery system, you will not be exposed to the aisle after aisle of chemically created, brightly colored, fake foods that your supermarket readily sells.
Of course, supermarkets make the majority of their profits from processed foods, which is why they promote them on aisle end-caps and other highly visible areas in the store -- because you are 30 percent more likely to buy items that are easily seen!
My suggestion to you and your family is to peruse this list of sustainable agriculture groups around the United States.
The good news is that increasing numbers of you are getting sick and tired (literally!) of paying a high cost for substandard, cheap, factory food.
As a result, alternative food networks are popping up all over the United States, from remote, rural areas to big cities. Please investigate the resources in your area, and avoid the supermarket as much as possible.
In case you’re wondering, local food IS preferable to organic. This is because your food will be much fresher if you buy it locally, and it will reduce the strain on the environment. Also, many small farmers actually use organic farming methods, but cannot afford the costly federal certification process to become certified “organic.” You’ll need to ask your individual farmer to be sure.
If you can’t find a local food resource from the link above, you can also track down sources by:
Asking workers in your local health food store Searching online for local farms in your area