Eat Local Challenge!
July 15, 2010. This date has been marked on my calendar with exclamation points and massive amounts of underlining for about 2 months now. What could possibly be so special about it? As it turns out July 15th is National Cow Appreciation Day (which is undeniably awesome). The 15th also is the day to appreciate Corn Fritters (which, I am sad to say, I have never had.) As exciting as both of these things are, I was looking forward to July 15th, 2010 for an even more exciting reason. Yesterday I signed up for the Willy Street Co-op’s first ever Eat Local Challenge!
What is an Eat Local Challenge? Essentially, it’s an opportunity to connect with the food grown in your area by pledging to eat more (or only) local food. In the case of this particular local food challenge, it means that I will eat ONLY locally grown food for one month, from 15 August to 15 September. According to the Co-op’s classification system (which you can see more of here), I am going to be a “Hardcore Localvore.” HARDCORE BABY!!!
While I was bouncing around at 8:45am yesterday, signing up and grinning like crazy with my challenge swag, one of my coworkers asked me why I was so excited about the whole thing. There isn’t a prize for “completing” the challenge at the end of the month. Participants don’t have to check in and prove that they are doing it. So what’s so great about it?
(Here are some shots of the aforementioned swag.)
It is true, I could have my own little “Stephanie Eat Local Challenge”, and I’m already something of a localvore. Technically I do not have to actually do the challenge – no one will be policing me. I could take my sweet free t-shirt to the nearest fast food joint for all the Co-op would know. I guess for me the exciting part is the challenge, pure and simple. I want to try to eat local food and only local food (with the exception of salt) for one whole month. I want to see what it feels like, how it tastes, where that new level of food awareness take me. I want to try the new recipes, spend even more time at farmer’s markets, realize that things like chocolate are in fact true luxuries. That I will have a whole community of people around me also trying to eat more local foods, to be more conscious of where their food is coming from, makes it all the more fun. There will be potlucks and workshops, special sales and celebrations. There will be conversations, exclamations, moaning (no coffee for a month! wa-h!), and a growing sense of solidarity.
Really, I think eat local challenges (especially ones like this) are great community building activities. Not only are we collectively working together on a project, but we are also directly supporting our farmers and producers economically, which in turn supports the entire local economy. One local food facts from another eat local challenge reads, “According to a study by the New
Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the
local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every
transaction.” That’s huge, especially when I stop to think about how many non-local food there is floating around. When I think about eating local, and the economic and social reasons for doing so, my brain definitely makes the next leap to wanting to do as much of my shopping in local stores, for local products, as possible.
In the spirit of many other Eat Local Challenge sites, I’ve decided to make my own personal Top Ten Reasons to Eat Local list. When September 15th comes around I’ll see if there are any I’d change or add. As of right now though, I want to/am super excited to eat local because:
Stephanie’s Top 10 Reasons to Eat Local:
1.) Eating local food makes me stop and think about what I’m putting into my body. This extra layer of awareness makes the whole eating process feel more intentional, from selection to consumption.
2.) Eating local food makes me feel special, because there is no where else in the whole world that you can get exactly the same deliciousness.
3.) Eating local food connects me with more people. As the folks at http://www.100milediet.org say, “Eating local is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket.” AND, since I’m lucky enough to shop at one of the top 30 farmer’s markets in the world (according to this month’s issue of Saveur– drool), I have so many wonderful farmers to talk to!
4.) Eating local foods reduces my carbon footprint. Instead of being shipped 1500 miles (the average number of miles produce travels to from an industrial farm to a consumer), my food is grown within a 150 mile radius. That feels much much better.
5.) Eating local foods = eating fresher, more tasty foods. The goodies at the farmer’s market have usually been picked within 24 hours of me strolling by and shopping. One of the many perks of not having to travel 1500 miles without rotting is the food can actually be picked when it’s ripe, sold when it’s ripe, and eaten when it’s ripe. That’s a whole lot of deliciousness.
6.) Eating local foods makes it easy to eat seasonally. Eating seasonally in turn makes me more appreciative of the climate I’m in, of the weather patterns and temperature changes. Having a garden has saved my sanity this year, because on every unbelievably hot and humid day (we do not have air conditioning up in this top floor apartment) I remember that my tomatoes LOVE the weather. And sure enough, I go home and plants have sprung up inches, or ripened to a whole new color/shape. I can actually taste the summertime in my tomatoes. In our human comfort obsessed world, it’s nice to have tangible reminders that it’s really not all about the homosapiens- what may feel yucky to us feels like a top-notch deep tissue massage to a tomato.
7.) I’m borrowing this one from a guide I found online. “Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it’s the farmer who brings apples to market or the baker who makes bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.” So, so true. I think stories are incredibly important. Another quote that says it so perfectly comes from Sue Monk Kidd and reads, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” I think that having stories for our food, happy stories, can help counteract the food amnesia that seems to be plaguing our nation. It’s wonderful to a) know what you’re eating, b)know what went into what you’re eating, and c) know who grew the food you’re eating.
8.)Eating local foods = new creative recipes! When you find yourself drowning in zucchini and tomatoes in the middle of the summer, you definitely come up with a myriad of ways to prepare them. Its fun, its inventive and I have found some new favorite foods that way!
9.) Eating local foods is fun! Going to the farmer’s market and finding a weird knobby tuber that ends up being a “sunchoke”? Cool! Having all of your friends over to try 10 different kinds of tomatoes? Good times! Getting jazzed over a free event like a farmer’s market? Very economical and even more awesome!
10.) Eating local foods means that I really know where my food comes from, and that’s my home. And I love my home. Enough said.
Will YOU take the Local Food Challenge? Why do YOU like to eat local food?