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The Environmental Impacts of Food Travel

Food is the energy source for every living thing on Earth. It is also a form of connection with your friends, and family. Because of this, the food industry is a fairly significant sector that plays a large role in the state of our environment. Environmentally friendly to destructive, there are many ways our food can arrive at our tables.

“Farm to table”, also known as “farm to fork”, is when your food comes directly from a farm without going through any store, market, or distributor. This mostly means that one is living on a farm, purchasing their ingredients from there, or going to a restaurant that buys their supplies directly from a farm with no distributor’s help. Farm to table is known as an environmentally friendly and healthy way to dine. The term farm to the table does not fit into the industrial sector of providing food. It is mostly focused on the flavor and nutrition of the ingredients they grow. These farms use fewer pesticides, emit fewer greenhouse gases, and have less nitrogen run-off than industrial-scale farms. In agribusiness, farmers use too many pesticides to keep bugs away from crops as well as other tools that are used to make the supplies look further appealing. These chemicals harm the organisms that keep the soil nutritious and thriving. When this happens, the soil will begin to dry over time, instead of being able to be used for long periods, when it is properly cared for. This also contaminates water, turf, and other vegetation. Pesticides are harmful to humans as well. The effects of exposure to pesticides can range from mild skin irritation to birth defects, tumors, genetic changes, blood and nerve disorders, endocrine disruption, coma, or death.

Another way to access food is through farmer’s markets. In these markets, local farmers sell fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and more supplies directly to customers from their farms. They deliver organic, fresh, and healthy foods that can improve the overall health of a community. Compared and contrasted to farm-to-table foods, both are straight from the source. However, a bigger number of people can access “farm to farmers market foods” since some don’t live on a farm, do not tend to go to restaurants that purchase their supplies from a farm, or cannot directly go to farmland. Local farming pays attention to the desires of its customers. Hence, as customers are starting to be more careful about the types of chemicals that are in their food, farmers are also paying more attention to these topics which benefit the environment. This does not mean that local farmers are fully sustainable but they are less detrimental to the environment than industrialized agriculture. Local farmers also depend less on fossil fuels since the food they produce is not on a large scale and transported long distances. Their products are not packaged which benefits the planet in the long term when compared to industrial agriculture.

Lastly, another way to access food is through “grocery stores to fast food.” This type is mostly not recommended mainly because of its health and environmental detriments. Grocery stores are often a part of industrialized agriculture. In industrial agriculture, crops and animals are grown at large scales, and chemicals and antibiotics are often used on crops and livestock. This form of modern farming wastes large amounts of food to sell good-looking fruits and vegetables only. Some farmers can not even sell half of what they have grown due to cosmetic standards controlled by grocery stores and supermarkets. They use great amounts of pesticides, freshwater, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by transporting crops and meat through long distances. Another problem with purchasing food from grocery stores is that after 24 hours, the quality of vegetables and fruits decreases making them less nutritious. Additionally, most of the packaging in grocery stores is not recyclable or reusable and results in a great deal of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans or landfills. These supplies also get sold to fast food companies which is a very controversial topic. Fast food is mostly preferred because of its “speed of service” and cheap cost. However, as it is mostly high in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, it is harmful to our health. Aside from human health, it is also harmful to the health of our planet. They produce a substantial amount of food and packaging waste. Finally, fast-food chains also emit organic chemicals known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. Some cause cancer and some can be reactive with other chemicals and form air pollutants once they are in the air. A recent study found that grilling four burgers at a fast-food restaurant released more VOCs than driving a car for 1,000 miles.

The phrase “you are what you eat” is accurate as food drastically affects our overall health. The same goes for our environment. The way we produce our food affects our planet more than we expect. To take another step towards sustainable agriculture, we need to change our eating habits and support sustainable farms rather than the over-production and consumption of food.


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