Grocery shoppers go for local foods

Grocery shoppers go for local foods

BOSTON (CBS) - Unlike most suburban 2-year-olds, Nathaniel gets to visit his dinner before he eats it.

His mother, Tammy Donroe, has enrolled the family in the "Eat Local Challenge." For one month, they're sticking with foods that are farmed, fished or raised within the Boston, Mass., region.

You're getting the freshest food that you can find, the most nutritious and you're also supporting the local ecomomy," Donroe said.

It's all part of a movement started by so-called "locavores," people who want fresher food, who want to see firsthand how their food is grown, and who want to know how animals are handled and fed.

"It makes you feel like you're in control of what you're eating and what your kids are eating," Donroe said.

But the biggest benefit touted by locavores is the reduction of food miles, the distance that food travels from the farm to the typical American plate.

For instance, Iowa families eat carrots that travel 1,600 miles from California. New Yorkers enjoy New Zealand lamb that travels nearly 9,000 miles. Chile in South America sends grapes 5,000 miles to Columbus, Ohio.

Theortetically, if everyone in the U.S. ate one locally produced meal every seven days, the country would reduce oil consumption by over a million barrels every week.

But the $900 billion food industry says that equation doesn't add up and argues that shipping in huge volumes actually cuts fuel costs and that shoppers will have to drive more - and burn more gas - to buy all their food locally.

Not everyone buys into that argument.

"What impresses me is the phenomenal effort that the industy is putting into, trying to prove that food miles don't make any sense," said Marion Nestle, author and nutrition expert. "It seems perfectly reasonable to think it's going to have a lower carbon footprint in the long run to have foods grown locally"

For Donroe, it's simpler.

"The food is just fresher, and it just tastes better," she said. "I have a pretty intelligent four year old, but I'm not sure that he understands the grand scheme of our food system. When a preschooler asks you for Kale, you have to make it."

Donroe said preparing every meal from local whole foods is a lot of work. She had to make some exceptions to keep dad on board.

"If there was no beer, no coffee, I would just have to live somewhere else for month," said Rich Donroe. "It would be undoable."