A Budget-Friendly Guide to Eating Seasonally and Locally

This guide is designed to help you access fresh fruits and vegetables in your community. With insights from Alice Ammerman, DrPH, professor in the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition, we offer guidance on using produce to make quick, healthy meals, all on a smaller budget.

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What Is Seasonal and Local Eating?

Seasonal eating means acquiring and consuming foods that are picked or harvested at the same time of year they come to market.

Local eating means consuming foods grown near the place they are sold. Some experts define “near” as within 150 miles, while the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 defines it as originating in the same state or within 400 miles.1

Seasonal food is sometimes local, but local food is always seasonal.

Why Eat Seasonally and Locally?

Simply put: Local, seasonal food often tastes better and can be better for you, your community and the regional economy.

Fruits and vegetables harvested locally and in season are fresher and often taste better.

Over time, foods lose their nutritional value if they are not preserved or frozen. One literature review in California found that green peas and green beans, for instance, can lose from 15 to 77 percent of their vitamin C content within a week of being picked.2 So, arugula planted and picked during North Carolina’s cool seasons will taste more peppery and flavorful to local residents than arugula trucked from California.

Seasonal food grown locally needs fewer preservatives.

Preservatives are chemicals added to foods to prevent spoiling. Also, fresh produce often is “waxed” to preserve shelf life. Local produce requires fewer — if any — of these substances, because the trip from farm to table is shorter.

Eating seasonally and locally helps to support the local economy and environment.

Buying local produce supports farmers in your community and avoids the environmental impact of long-distance transport.


1 Rep. Peterson, Collin C. [D-MN-7]. “H.R.2419 – Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008,” 110th Congress, May 22, 2008. Accessed October 30, 2018 arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

2 Barrett, Diane M. “Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits & Vegetables,” Food Technology, April 2007. 40-44. Accessed November 8, 2018.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

Citation for this content: MPH@UNC, the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s online MPH program.