Eating local food creates jobs and boosts the economy, promotes health and wellbeing, and supports a healthy environment with thriving communities.
Economy & Job Creation
In 2006, the total economic impact of agricultural-related industries was $55 billion and 357,100 jobs.
Every job in agriculture and agriculture-related industries results in an additional 1.5 jobs and $1.75 of value added to the Virginia economy.
Virginians annually spend $14.8 billion on food ($8.1 billion to eat at home, and another $6.7 billion to eat out). Of this amount, approximately $8.9 billion represents a lost economic and social opportunity for Virginia farmers and communities because the money is spent on food coming from outside Virginia and thus leaves the state.
If Virginia consumers bought only 15% of their food directly from local farms, farmers would earn $2.2 billion of new income.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension showed that if each Virginia household spent just $10 of their total weekly food budget on local food and farm products, $1.65 billion would be generated annually, directly impacting Virginia’s economy.
Health & Well-being
In 2002, the Virginia Center for Healthy Communities reported 24 percent of adult Virginians were obese and 35 percent were overweight.
In 2003, Virginia had the 14th highest obesity-related healthcare costs in the 50 states and direct obesity-attributable healthcare costs reached over $1.6 billion. Increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fresh foods has been shown to reduce diet-related healthcare costs.
Americans eat 523 more calories per day and consume 10 times more refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup than in 1970; they may be more likely to replace these high calorie foods with local farm products, which are fresh, flavor-intense and significantly lower in calories.
Americans now spend over 16% of their earned income on health care.
Researchers have predicted that because of the unprecedented increase in obesity and related chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, particularly among American youth, they may actually have a shorter life span than their parents.
Most Virginia public schools allocate between $1 and $2 to feed a student 1 meal per day. Salaries and wages for food service personnel are paid from this amount as well.
Health and nutrition professionals have emphasized that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can optimize good health and significantly reduce the rate of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and the overall incidence of cancer by 20%, and result in reduced health care costs and increased life expectancy.
Community & Environment
Currently, Virginia has just over 170 farmers markets, a cumulative increase of approximately 94% in less than five years.
According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, on average, food travels 1,300 to 1,500 miles from farm to fork and 4 to 7 days before reaching the store.