Recently, I've noticed that the dining halls around campus are starting to use more local and fresh ingredients. From the herb garden on North Campus, to the plums in East Quad dining hall grown on a nearby farm, it seems as though eating local is becoming more common all around us at the University of Michigan. 

What's so great about eating local? 

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Sam Jesner

Most likely if food is locally sourced, it is fresher, more nutritious, and lacks added sugars or preservatives that retain nutrition over long distances of travel. Who wouldn’t want to be eating the freshest and the healthiest foods? Even for those who see eating local as just another health trend, there's another reason why locally sourced food is so great: food miles

What are food miles?

Food miles are the distance traveled by a certain food product before it reaches you. For example, it's how far the watermelon straight from Mexico travels to get to your grocery store or how far the pear you get from Argentina goes for you to bite into. But it can get even more complicated than that with super complex products. Hypothetically, the pizza you get at Joe’s could’ve sourced its cheese from New York, the tomatoes in its sauce from California, and the spices all the way from Italy. Every food product has food miles, and the farther the food has to travel to get to its destination, the more energy and fossil fuels are being used to circulate products around.

The solution to this is to eat local! Eating locally means reducing CO2 emissions and is one step to becoming a more environmentally conscious eater. There are so many ways you can reduce the food miles you contribute to, but most simply, going to local food markets and restaurants that offer locally sourced foods are the best way to go.

Here is a list of restaurants in Ann Arbor to get you started:

Grange Kitchen

As stated in its mission statement, Grange Kitchen is committed to creating the best food through sustainably grown and locally sourced food. Over 90% of its food comes from local farms! Their menu features a wide selection of fresh and flavorful dishes to try from while staying eco-friendly. 

Fresh Forage

This farm to table restaurant prides itself on sourcing its food from its own family farm and other local farms in Michigan. Their menu features all sorts of bowls that appeal to meat-eaters and vegans alike. And all of the materials they use are compostable!

First Bite

First Bite's philosophy is “Food 4.0”, which it practices through sourcing from local farms and using almost 100% compostable packaging. The menu is vibrant and even features two different types of avocado toast, just in case you needed another incentive to give them a visit. 

Juicy Kitchen

Featuring a very diverse menu, Juicy Kitchen is also committed to using produce from local farms. They often rotate their menu based on what’s locally in-season. This menu is perfect for you especially if you’re a vegetarian, (they do have some meat though, if that’s what you’re here for).

Of course, these options are just to get you started. There are so many more ways you can eat local around where you live or even at home. Every grocery store around you is bound to have ingredient options sourced from nearby– just check the labels!