Skip to main content

How Eating Local (And Trying New Food) Helps Your Community

This alum knows that a food tour is more than a satisfying trip for your taste buds, it’s a lesson that can link a meal to a mission to better communities.

By Paula Ann Solis

October 15, 2018

A group of people sit eating a meal at a long table.

“What’s for dinner?” isn’t just a family concern, says Bryce Hach (Greater Delta '98). It’s a community concern. With his wife, Sarah, Hach launched a tour company in 2018, Maine Food for Thought, to tell the story of Maine’s food system and its community impact.

On tours, Hach shares that in the United States the average meal travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, nearly the distance from Los Angeles to New York City. Tour guests hear the stories of local farmers and fishers, many of whose livelihoods are impacted by imports, unsustainable farming practices, and climate change. Hach visits blueberry fields where migrant workers host soccer tournaments in the off-season and potato farms where entire families stop everything, even schooling, to bring in the harvest. Stories like these and many others drive home the story of a meal.

“Our food choices magnify our community choices,” Hach says. In other words, once you’ve met your local potato farmer, it’s easier to draw the connection between a stronger community and that locally sourced section at your grocery store.

About two-thirds of Hach’s customers come from out of state, he says. “We’re giving people a playbook for when they go back to their communities—a list of things to start thinking about.” He shared with One Day a few tips for more community-friendly consuming:

Don’t be a picky eater: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 75 percent of the food people eat is represented by 12 plant and five animal species. “Eating more locally sourced food requires us to eat different types of foods than we’ve become used to,” Hach says.

Grow vegetables: “The reality is high-quality food isn’t going to always be readily accessible,” Hach says, particularly in “food deserts” where residents have little access to groceries and fresh produce. “Starting just one community garden is a small way to move toward progress.” Or you can plant a school garden.

Ask questions: Where is this food sourced? Is it grown in a sustainable way? Is the aquaculture dug in a sustainable way? (“Uh, what’s aquaculture?”) Are the farmers and workers paid fairly? What is the rate of food insecurity in your local school district? Those answers, Hach says, underpin the sustainability of a local food system.