2 April 2019
[Editor’s note: Students in the COMM 2900: Writing for the Media course, taught by the Scribe’s advisor Laura Eurich, were given an assignment to localize a Gallup poll. The top three submissions were shared with the Scribe editorial board, and one was chosen to publish.]
A recent Gallup poll indicates that nearly 75 percent of Americans try to eat locally grown foods.
Gallup polls have periodically asked Americans about dietary preferences since 2002, and included locally grown food for the first time.
The poll suggests that one possible reason is the proliferation of community agriculture and “farm-to-table” movements that have grown in popularity since the early 2000s.
According to the poll, more Americans are trying to include locally grown foods than are trying to include grains in their diet.
Locally grown foods also beat out organic foods by 25 points, indicating that Americans are more concerned about their food being locally grown than being organic.
Briona Lo-Romero, a junior at UCCS studying exercise science, tries to buy organic when possible, “I do tend to buy stuff that says organic, probably for the health appeal.”
Victoria Asuquo, a senior in the biomedical track at UCCS, said that organic is less important to her than food being locally grown. “I know there’s a whole organic thing but as long as I know its locally grown and I trust the source I’m OK.”
The poll comes at a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about the safety of their food.
A 2018 outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce sent dozens to hospitals across the US and Canada and the Food and Drug Administration requested that all romaine lettuce be recalled and destroyed.
Locally grown foods, for some, alleviate that concern.
Emily Aragon, a sophomore pre-nursing major, lived in Rocky Ford before attending UCCS.
“Being in that agricultural environment and getting to see the crops grow and getting to know the farmers that all play a part in it, I definitely prefer it locally grown so I can see it and know they aren’t doing things they shouldn’t be,” said Aragon.
Locally grown foods are often marketed as being fresh and helping local farmers. That characterization has resulted in locally grown foods being less controversial than other food staples.
The poll also indicates that less people intentionally avoid locally grown foods than they avoid chicken, dairy or fish.
Locally grown foods are also a large industry. The Gallup poll cited an analysis of United States Department of Agriculture data that found sales of locally grown foods are projected to reach $20 billion in 2019, up from $5 billion in 2008.
One hurdle that locally grown foods will need to overcome is accessibility. In 2010, the USDA reported that over 20 million Americans, including more than 6 million children, live in what the USDA refers to as “food deserts.”
A food desert is an area, typically low-income, with limited access to sources of fresh food such as supermarkets. In these locations, diets often consist of processed foods and when fresh food is available, it is often sold with a high markup, making it difficult for families to afford healthy options.
These food deserts are common, and the USDA publishes maps that show areas with issues accessing food which can be accessed online.
Certain areas around Colorado and even Colorado Springs are included on that map. UCCS is bordering one of these zones and difficulty finding fresh food is an issue that some students struggle with.
Aragon recalls a friend who had issues finding and affording fresh food. “She could not afford food so she would buy bags of Gobstoppers and eat them for lunch and breakfast.”