Local foods and health

In January, 2016 the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 were released. The guidelines provide dietary recommendations promote health and prevent chronic disease.

Local food and healthy eating

Healthy eating is key to healthy living. Although there is no scientific evidence local produce is healthier than traditional produce, eating local food can help promote healthy eating:

  • Local produce may taste better (fresher, etc.), which can increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Local produce may be more nutrient-dense if picked at its peak and handled correctly after harvest and taken directly to market.
  • Eating more local produce can reduce  the consumption of  more processed foods

Several Farm to School case studies show children making healthier food choices when they know where their food comes from and how it is grown. They also influence their parents in their grocery shopping and cooking choices. Find out more on our Iowa Farm to School Network page.

Safe food

The safety of food from farm to fork is a concern, as CDC estimates 48 million people in the United States experience a food-borne illness each year, resulting in about 3,000 deaths. Knowing where and how food is produced is an advantage for local food systems. Resources for consumers, foodservice operations and producers are available on ISU Extension and Outreach’s Food Safety website.

Food security

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life“. Local food systems may help improve food security by making local, fresh food available to local populations. Iowa imports over 80% of its food. Much of the produce we buy in Iowa is grown in California. Climate change affecting California and the world, has initiated frank discussions about where our produce will come from in the future.

For more information about food access, go here.

General nutrition information

Practicing good nutrition does not have to be complicated, but there are some basic principles to follow.

  • Balance calories with activity
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Choose fat-free or 1% milk
  • Choose foods that are low in sodium
  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks


Let’s Eat for the Health of It.

Key Nutrients.

Food Pantry Produce Donations: Grower Information.

More Resources


USDA’s Consumer Website on Farmers’ Markets.

Preserve the Taste of Summer Training.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart website.

Click this link to see what Americans ate on an average day, for the past several decades.

Useful contacts



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