The executive director of a national group that hopes to convince Americans to eat more locally-grown and locally-raised food will soon be traveling around Iowa, spreading that message. Tim Schlitzer, executive director of FoodRoutes Network, says 50 years ago nearly all the food Americans ate was grown within a short drive of their home.
Today, only two percent of the food Americans eat comes from a local farm. That doesn’t make economic sense, according to Schlitzer. He says decades from now, if the trend isn’t reversed, Americans will be dependent on other countries for our food while standards in those other countries may not produce food that’s of high quality. Schlitzer believes Americans are willing to give up their now wide variety of food choices in favor of what’s in season.
"I think consumers are realizing that having strawberries in January is great, but if they don’t have any flavor, if they don’t have any nutritional value and that they’re going to cost more and more to bring from other countries and that they’re not healthy, I think folks will realize a better way to go is to eat more seasonally, eat more locally," he says.
Schlitzer’s wife is a cheesemaker at a dairy near their home in Pennsylvania. The couple’s part of a cooperative which raises grass-fed cattle. FoodRoutes — the organization Schlitzer runs — helps the 47 ‘Buy Fresh Buy Local’ chapters around the country try to "revitalize" local food systems. There are eight chapter in Iowa.
"Iowa is a leader in the country really for this ‘Buy Fresh Buy Local’ movement," Schlitzer says. Iowa, Pennsylvania, California and Louisiana were the founding states in the movement. "Iowa has continued to be a leader," Schlitzer says. According to Schlitzer, one of the best selling points for seasonal produce is its taste.
"We as consumers really need to step up and say that we do want that back,’" Schlitzer says. "I also think it’s a lot of fun to know that every year a certain thing does come back. We really look forward to times when strawberries are in season in our area and I know the public would like to see those kinds of things come back." Schlitzer arrives in Iowa on June 4th and he’ll visit farmers’ markets, restaurants that serve locally-grown food and attend meetings with Iowans who’re part of the "Buy Fresh Buy Local" organization.