Site name and logo


Pronounced /ˈləʊkəvɔə/Help with pronunciation

The word began life in 2005, according to reports by a group of four women in San Francisco, and has grown in popularity, so much so that Adam Platt wrote in New York magazine on 17 September 2007: “What self-respecting restaurant critic isn’t weary of the whole locavore phenomenon?” A couple of months later, the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary selected it as their word of the year for 2007.

It’s about the distance that food travels to reach our plates. For supermarkets, it makes commercial sense to source foodstuffs where they can be grown most cheaply and consistently, which can be thousands of miles from their markets. Consumers want to eat fruit and vegetables all year round, so they have to be brought in from where they’re in season. There’s nothing new in transporting foodstuffs to markets but what concerns environmentalists is the extent to which they’re now being moved long distances by road and air, which leads to great expenditures of energy and the dumping of masses of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The British term food miles, dating from the 1990s, was created to measure the distance that food travels to reach us and illustrate the complexity of the supply chains involved.

Locavore is a compound of local with one of the words ending in -vore, such as omnivore or carnivore; localvore is also used. Locavores try to obtain their food from as near as possible to where they live and so restrict themselves to seasonal produce. They argue that local food is often fresher, better-tasting and more nutritious than that from supermarkets, and helps to improve their health as well as support local enterprise and save the planet. What “local” means is open to interpretation, but a radius of 100 miles is often quoted, leading to the term 100-mile diet. The area from which food is sourced is sometimes called the food shed, presumably taken from watershed, which for Americans is the area drained by a river (this needs to be explained, since in the UK a watershed is the boundary between two drainage systems, which in the US is a divide).

[Many thanks to Dave Cook for pointing me to this word.]

The Windsors do emerge in this book as “locavores” before the trend, relying on foods raised or caught on their own estates for much of their diet. And they eat seasonally. As McGrady notes, woe to the chef who would dare serve the queen a strawberry in January.

Chicago Sun-Times, 4 Sep. 2007

On a cloudy May Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, the self-described “locavore” is making a meal of almost all local ingredients — not an easy feat for an unabashed foodie who waitresses at a local restaurant.

Advertising Age, 4 Jun. 2007

Support this website and keep it available!

There are no adverts on this site. I rely on the kindness of visitors to pay the running costs. Donate via PayPal by selecting your currency from the list and clicking Donate. Specify the amount you wish to give on the PayPal site.

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 22 Sep 2007; Last updated 16 Feb 2008