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Why Local Produce Is Better for You Than Store-Bought Produce

June 14, 2021

Summertime is associated with delicious foods, from red tomatoes and sweet corn to juicy peaches. The list goes on and on. But all these delectable in-season fruits and veggies are not just yummy. They are actually more healthy for you than grocery store produce.

“Grocery store produce often has to travel thousands of miles,” said Shannon Haynes, a registered dietician who works at Backus Hospital. “The longer it takes to go from the farm to your table, the more their nutrients deteriorate. All the water-soluble vitamins like C and B6 are temperamental. When you buy fruits and vegetables from a local farm, they have a lot more vitamins and nutrients.”

Additionally, shopping for fruits and vegetables at a local farmers market or subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture program at a local farm gives you a much wider variety from which to choose, Haynes said.

“I always tell people, ‘Eat the rainbow,’”she said, “because all the different colors of produce contain different antioxidants that offer different health benefits. The more diverse your diet the better.”

As the season progresses the options change, making shopping, cooking and eating more interesting, Haynes noted.

“In the spring,” she said, “there are strawberries, the greens, peas. Then, in the summer, you have the heat crops, tomatoes, corn. Then comes the root vegetables.”

For those who want organic produce, Haynes said sometimes a label isn’t the most important thing.

“It can be complicated and expensive for small farmers to officially be labeled organic,” she said. “But you can ask them how they raise their produce, if they spray, and what they use. That’s what’s great about a farmers market, you can ask the farmer. You can have a relationship with the people who grow your food.”

Both Backus and Windham hospitals will have farm stands this summer, open to staff and the public.

The Backus Farmstand, starting July 16, will open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Courtyard. It will switch locations weekly with the Backus Outpatient Care Center (at the BOC July 23, then Courtyard July 30, etc.)

The Windham Farmstand, starting July 7, will open every Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Professional Building, 132 Mansfield Ave, Willimantic.