Everyone, everywhere depends increasingly on long-distance food. Encouraged by food processing innovations, cheap oil, and subsidies, since 1961 the value of global trade in food has tripled and the tonnage of food shipped between nations has grown fourfold, while population has only doubled. In the United States, food typically travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate, as much as 25 percent farther than in 1980.
For some, the long-distance food system offers unparalleled choice. But it often runs roughshod over local cuisines, varieties, and agriculture, while consuming staggering amounts of fuel, generating greenhouse gases, eroding the pleasures of face-to-face interactions around food, and compromising food security. Fortunately, the long-distance food habit is beginning to weaken under the influence of a young, but surging, local foods movement. From peanut butter makers in Zimbabwe to pork producers in Germany and rooftop gardeners in Vancouver, entrepreneurial farmers, start-up food businesses, restaurants, supermarkets, and concerned consumers are propelling a revolution that can help restore rural areas, enrich poor nations, and return fresh, delicious and wholesome food to cities.