Support your local community food systems at your next cookout

Your next cookout can make supporting local community foods systems easier than you think.

Summertime is a season when many people grill out on weekends, go camping, or partake in other social activities that bring family and friends together, often around a summertime meal. Whether it is burgers, hot dogs, or other foods cooked on the grill or over the campfire, we can still focus on quality products sourced locally within our communities.

Sourcing foods from local producers does more than support our local economy, but also ensures that we know how our food was produced, grown, or raised. For example, hamburgers and hot dogs using quality beef from local farmers or corn grown on local farms can be found in our local meat markets.

How can you know if what you are cooking is from your local Community Food System? It’s as easy as asking the butcher behind the meat counter or reading the labels on the package. Often, accoutrements such as corn on the cob, onions, pickles and cheese are all items that can also be sourced from local growers. Your local farmers market is also another great source to find products to use in your summertime cookout. At your local farmers market you can have a conversation with the producer and dialogue about their growing practices, how fresh the product is, and where they are located. A great source to find where farmers markets are located in your area is through the Michigan Farmers Market Association “Find a Farmers Market” tool. It’s that easy!

Many of these products can also be purchased at your local major supermarket. Some of the larger chains do source some of their product locally, but also do import a lot of their products as well. A local Michigan example of this would be the partnership between the MSU Product Center and Meijer to increase the number of Michigan Made products offered at their locations. Remember, supporting your local community food system is always a good choice for economic and health reasons, but ultimately it is personal choice that drives your decision.

However, keep in mind that as much as we want good quality products, we should ensure that the food we eat is as healthy as possible. Typically, locally sourced foods tend to be fresher and contain less preservatives due to a shorter time to market and consumer. Reading labels or having a simple discussion with the market manager or producer can help answer these questions for you and aid in your selection.

So, when you get ready for that next cookout, consider shopping local and supporting your local Community Food System. Michigan State University Extension has a work team that is focused on helping educate you on the value of Community Food Systems and help producers get more of their products to local consumers and for local consumers, like yourself, to consider supporting local Community Food Systems. For more information, visit our Community Food Systems website.

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