Consumer Reports: New ways to buy and eat local

Posted at 4:00 PM, Jun 25, 2020

Grocery shopping habits during the coronavirus pandemic changed across the country, with supply disruptions ranging from meat to produce. That has some people rethinking how and where they get their food.

Consumer Reports explains why buying local might be your best bet.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Michael Parkot’s 42-acre pig farm in western New York catered mostly to restaurants.

But when the restaurants started to close, Parkot had to pivot fast. He decided to sell directly to consumers from his farm.

“Everything just flew right out the window in a period of two hours. People are home, they’re not spending as much of their regular food budget, so they’re looking for higher-quality ingredients," he said.

It's a trend that Parkot and other farmers hope continues even as consumer’s go back to their pre-COVID shopping habits.

If you’re interested in buying and eating more local foods, CR says you can do a few things.

First, check out your local farmers markets.

“That food is harvested locally and it doesn’t travel across the country to a grocery store where you might buy it, so you’re going to be getting fresh, nutritious food," explained Rachel Rabkin Peachman, Consumer Reports Investigative Journalist.

Much of what you’ll find at the farmers market is also grown with fewer pesticides or is certified organic. The USDA says that the local, certified organic products at farmers markets are often competitively priced compared to retail stores.

You can also purchase a "share" in a farm program.

Related: How to eat during a meat shortage

“A CSA is a community supported agriculture. You pay a local farmer upfront and then in return you usually get a box every week that consists of what has been harvested locally. So you end up getting a really great variety of food that you might not purchase on your own," Peachman said.

Another option is to buy directly from the farm. Parkot is part of a Facebook group that connects customers to local farms.

“It’s just over a month old now, and there’s 7,500 members in there," he said.

Michael hopes to see a small-farm renaissance that better connects people with their food.

Ever worried you’ll come home from the farmers market with more fruits and vegetables than you’ll know what to do with? Why not freeze them for later?! CR shows us how on their website.