Think Inside the Veggie Box: Aligning Your Food Purchasing With Your Philanthropic Interest

As someone who supports our mission to protect open space, farmland, and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, you may have asked yourself, how do I participate in the food economy in line with my philanthropic interests? The answer is purchase locally grown food. In this first series of tips on how to do that in a way that works for you, we’ll explore the abundance of food box delivery services available these days.

Shopping ethically and sustainably can be a challenge as more farms, cooperatives, collectives and even tech companies enter the market with their offering of food boxes that brand themselves as the most environmentally and socially conscious option. The options vary from strictly vegan to keto friendly meat boxes, and from raw organics to nearly fully prepared meals that you need only pop in the oven. So if you’re going to subscribe to a food box delivery service, what should you keep in mind to ensure you choices are inline with your ethics?

Tip #1 – Shop local: think inside the veggie box. Buying directly from your local farmer  is the best way to ensure that your purchasing power is fully supporting the farmer and our local economy. A great way of doing this is by subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) service. Better known as veggie boxes, the CSA program was established in 2013 by the State of California as a way for farmers to supplement their income during the lean winter months of the year, when income is low but expenses for seed, equipment, and labor are high. The basic premise is that in the winter months, you as the consumer pay upfront for a predetermined number of produce box deliveries to arrive during the bountiful summer months. However, today CSA boxes are delivered year-round depending on the subscription service. They can be purchased on a month to month, seasonal, or year-round  basis. You can find farms in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties that offer this service by doing a search on Local Harvest.

Michael Thorp with Spade & Plow Organics

Not all food boxes are created equal, though. Some farmers’ CSA service contains only produce grown on their own farms, while others source from multiple farms and food producers. For example, Spade and Plow CSA out of San Martin not only features produce from their farm, but customers can select additional foods like locally roasted coffee, pasture raised eggs, and bread from other nearby food producers. Other food boxes however, may source beyond your local farmer to elsewhere in the state, or even outside of California.

Imperfect Produce is one such an example. They source their food from wherever food may potentially go to waste. The fruits and vegetables aren’t ideal looking and therefore less attractive to the average consumer. As it is likely not to sell in grocery stores, it goes to waste. Depending on availability, growing location, and seasonality, Imperfect Produce may be sourcing their product from overseas sellers. While preventing food from going to waste is important, it may be equally important for you to know where your food is coming from and the distance it traveled to get to your door. Purchasing locally grown food is also helping to lower food waste and significantly decrease the amount of greenhouse gases it takes to deliver it to you.

Farmers face a multitude of challenges today, from an unpredictable and changing climate, to competition from subsidized imported produce, to a shortage of labor, to the high cost of land. Unfortunately, we are not the only county where farmland is threatened by continual urbanization, but we are a county that does contain some of the highest land values in the country. By purchasing locally grown food, you actively support local farming and the local food economy, help to create a resilient urban food supply, and the ecological benefits farming provides all of us. In short, everyone benefits from the fruits of our local farms when we support our local farmers.

Look for Tip #2: Farmers Markets & Farm Stands in an upcoming blog.

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