When Brent Smith sold his gourmet ice pops from his shop, The Hyppo, during Local Food Week recently, he wasn’t just trying to make money.
He was trying to educate customers about the benefits of consuming products made from locally grown fruits and honey.
“With honey, there is huge health benefits of eating local,” Smith said. “If you’re taking in the pollen through honey of local fruits and local pollens and mixing honey in with some of our pops, you are that much less likely to have allergic reactions or allergies to what is in the air.”
Smith also said using local fruits boosts the local economy.
“Fresh fruits are healthy for you and it’s great, but it’s more of an economic thing,” he said. “By promoting local businesses and local farmers, we’re keeping resources within our small area to promote the local economy rather than buying from huge food distributors which wherever their headquarters is, that is where the money goes.”
The Hyppo’s participation was part of an effort that Alachua County began in 2012 to shine a light on businesses that produce and sell locally grown foods to the public, and in doing so, demonstrate the health implications and benefits of eating local. The board of commissioners declared Feb. 7-14 as the county’s 2016 Local Food Week.
The week was created four years ago by Gainesville farm company Forage, Inc., in an effort to recognize local businesses’ efforts to provide healthy food options, according to Forage, Inc.
Anna Prizzia, co-founder of Forage, Inc., conducted the 5th annual “I Love Local Food Week,” and was presented with the proclamation acknowledging her annual community-based week.
Prizzia said Forage, Inc. was pleased with the week.
“Our goal was to educate people about the resources that are available locally and what crops they can grow on their own, ” Prizzia said. “This time of year leafy greens and root crops grow best.”
Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said the week is based around issues the county strongly supports and focuses on Alachua as an important agricultural area.
“These consciousness-raising events are there to grab attention for issues that we believe in,” Hutchinson wrote in an email.
Featured this year were local businesses and events educating Alachua County residents on topics ranging from eating a low-carbon diet to organic foods moving from farms to dinner tables.
Studies show over time, fresh produce loses its optimal nutritional value as soon as it is picked, so eating locally cuts down on the transportation time it takes for food to get from farms to dinner tables, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension Living Green.
“It just kind of highlights and sets us apart from big other corporations,” Smith said. “I know smoothie places and other stuff get a lot of frozen fruit, so it could be processed from California or wherever, and so it just sets us apart and puts us at a different standard.”