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Eat for the Planet

Eat Local Sustainable Food

You don’t have to go on a diet to change your diet. Making a simple commitment to eat more plant-based meals and less meat is one of the most impactful changes you can make to conserve water, energy, and natural lands. Become a “locavore” and eat food grown locally and in season to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerating, packaging, and shipping food over long distances. Supporting Suncoast farmers, grocers, and restaurants that are part of the blossoming farm-to-table movement supports our local economy, biodiversity, soil health, and food security.

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local food prevents food inequity

Get Started

From land use to water consumption to greenhouse gas emissions, what and how we eat really matters.

 

Step 1

Eat Lower on the Food Chain

Cost: Variable

Mom was right: Eat more vegetables! Dishing up more fruits, vegetables, and grains is far less damaging to the environment than meat.

You don’t have to swear off steak forever: simply cutting back on the amount of red meat you eat is helpful (and healthful too). Why not give Meatless Mondays a try and explore tasty recipes that go way beyond a salad?

 

What’s My Meat Footprint

 

This calculator generates your water use and greenhouse gas emissions based on the mix of meats that you eat. You can then calculate the impact of substituting high protein vegetables like soy for some or all of the meat in your diet.

Calculator

Step 2

Shop Local, In-Season, Organic

Cost: Variable

seasonal local food promotes sustainability
local food fresh from florida

For fresh, local, in-season food strive to find everything you want to eat within 50 miles. Fruit and veggies grown out of season in greenhouses, or grown in other states or countries, require large amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and energy to raise, store, and ship long distances. In Florida, fresh food can be grown in every season and harvested at peak ripeness for maximum flavor and nutrition. Strawberries, lettuce, citrus, tomatoes, corn, squash, and blueberries are among crops grown locally at various times of year. Increasingly, small farms are opting for organic methods that avoid chemicals.

 

Make Local Your New Social

  • Make foraging locally fun by forming a “fresh food club” among your friends and neighbors, with regular group forays to farmer’s markets, u-picks, and farms.
  • Host regular “locavore” potluck dinners where guests bring dishes produced with locally grown foods. You can choose a theme, such as Italian fare, or dishes beginning with a letter of the alphabet. Alternatively, start a “Locally Rooted” recipe and ingredient exchange to share menu items for seasonal, local dishes.
  • Join a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm where you pay a subscription fee and receive a weekly share of the harvest, or join a Community Garden to grow your own and have ready access to fresh produce.

 

Shop Local

Supporting Suncoast farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in your own community, along with a thriving network of farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and farm-to-table restaurants supports our local economy, biodiversity, soil health and food security. Search for “Fresh From Florida” products and suppliers by location and look for Fresh From Florida labels wherever you shop. Even major supermarket chains are getting into the locally grown groove.

Transition Sarasota, a local non-profit leader in the local food movement, maintains the Eat Local Guide, the definitive searchable guide to Suncoast-sourced food, including farmer’s markets, grocers, restaurants, community gardens, CSA farms, and U-pick farms.

Find Local Food

Next Level Strategies

Eat the Enemy

If you are a diver, help control invasive Lionfish in our area waters by participating in the local Lionfish Derby. If you don’t dive, you can still help by purchasing lionfish harvested locally from local seafood markets. Because lionfish are voracious predators of juvenile fish, you’ll be helping to preserve our native fisheries. Blackened lionfish tacos sound good? Here are some recipes.

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What’s My Meat Footprint?

meat is less energy efficient than plant-based foods

This calculator generates your water use and greenhouse gas emissions based on the mix of meats that you eat. You can then calculate the impact of substituting high protein vegetables like soy for some or all of the meat in your diet.

Meat Footprint Calculator

How many ounces of meat do you consume per week? (Typical serving size is 4oz)

INTAKE (oz per week)

Impact of eating
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Impact of substituting veg for 50% meat for 1 year

% savings by substituting 50% veg

Total pounds of meat

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Number of chickens

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Number of pigs

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Number of cows

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Gallons of water used

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Pounds of CO2 emitted

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That’s the water equivalent of leaving your faucet running for (x) days:

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That’s the GHG Equivalent of:

Ac. of forest growing over 1yr

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Tree seedlings grown for 10 yrs

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Gas-powered car miles (22.5mpg)

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Get Involved

Support the local food movement and food access

  • Get involved with Transition Sarasota where you can become a member, volunteer, donate, or lead their initiatives to build a thriving, people-powered community that cultivates local food and economic security.
  • Volunteer and support Newtown Nation to energize and sustain the weekly Newtown Farmer’s Market and the annual Big Mamma’s Collard Green Festival.
  • Support the new non-profit start-up Miss Suzie’s Newtown Kitchen. The Food Truck and restaurant serves as a community gathering space and economic catalyst for the Newtown community.
  • Support Unique Unity’s mission to fight hunger and enable self-sufficiency for whole health and enhanced quality of life in vulnerable populations in the Bradenton area.

Volunteer at a local food bank or senior center

Take a Class, Volunteer, Attend an Event, Speak Up

Find out what’s happening and join in with our comprehensive community events listing.

Look for these classes

  • Sustainable Food and You
  • Canning: Hot Chile Salsa and Fruit Salsa
  • Canning: Strawberry Preserves and Tomatoes
  • Preserving Foods Through Hydration

Get Involved

Resources and More

Sustainable Food Guides

Want to Talk to Someone?

FAQ

How is eating locally grown food better for the environment?

Studies have shown that the food on the average American’s dinner plate traveled almost 1,500 miles to get there. Local food doesn’t have to travel nearly as far – sharply reducing use of fossil fuels that expand our carbon footprint. Eating locally preserves farmlands that support wildlife. Local farmers are more likely to plant a diversity of crops and to rotate crop production according to seasons, protecting biodiversity and reducing use of pesticides.

Learn More

If I eat less meat, will I get enough protein in my diet?

You can absolutely get sufficient protein from plant-based sources. Protein is found in many foods, including all kinds of beans and nuts, oats and quinoa, along with spinach and artichokes. Dairy foods like eggs, cheese, milk and Greek yogurt are protein-packed as well. Locally caught seafood is high in protein too, yet Americans eat far less seafood and vegetables than dietary guidelines recommend. Even though we eat less meat than we did a decade ago, we’re still consuming about 55 pounds of beef per person per year, second only to Argentina. This comes with a heavy price for our planet: The land, water, livestock food and energy required for meat-centric diets is responsible for about one-fifth of global emissions. Shifting our diets to include more plant-based foods reduces land clearing, fertilizer use, methane from burping cattle, and greenhouse gas emissions. Filling our plates with fresh, local fruits and vegetables is one of the most powerful actions we can take toward a sustainable planet.

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How do I know what’s local and seasonal?

Patronizing local markets, farm stands or community farms (CSAs) guarantees you access to fruits and vegetables from local farms. Even major supermarket chains feature some locally grown produce in season. The “Fresh From Florida” state marketing program highlights fruits, vegetables and even seafood harvested in Florida. When dining out, look for restaurants that specialize in farm-to-table dishes or ask servers what’s in season and on their menus. Become a more informed consumer by boosting your own knowledge of what’s in season. This calendar can help.

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Eat Local sounds nice, but isn’t small-scale local farming an inefficient way to try to feed everyone?

Eat Local is not a panacea for feeding the world. People living in many places must import their food. Florida is fortunate to have great growing conditions for many types of crops, though not everything we like to eat. In Florida, supporting existing local farms and ranches helps keep those lands in agricultural production providing green space rather than converting to suburban sprawl. Farms and ranches can provide valuable ecosystem services like water storage and filtration, wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon. Eating locally produced food also contributes to the local economy, builds resilience, and community. But, in order to feed the world’s burgeoning population, we need to increase efficiency and intensity of food production globally and optimize distribution and storage. Increased efficiency and intensity can decrease the total production acreage needed and help protect natural lands from being converted to farmland.

Ultimately, the net environmental impact of where we get our food depends on i) the local growing conditions and the intensity of practices needed to make that farmland productive, ii) how far the food must be transported to market, and iii) what the alternative land use would be for that farmland if it weren’t under production. A full life-cycle analysis is needed to thoroughly understand the dynamics of our local and global food systems. Whatever the calculations, the bottom line is that sustainable agriculture practices are needed on farms large or small, close or far.

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Ask the Expert

Submit your food-related question to local experts. If selected, they will answer and feature your question on our FAQ. Not all questions will be answered.

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