Eat Local Challenge

While looking at my former graduate school’s webpage, I saw that their food vendor, Bon Appetit, is hosting an “Eat Local Challenge” day.Β  For lunch on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, all of the food they serve will be grown, or in the case of fish, caught, with 150 miles of the university.Β  The intent is to educate students on the availability of local options.

There certainly is not shortage of variety of the menu…

  • fish from the ocean off the New Jersey coast and local streams
  • sweet corn
  • butternut squash
  • beets
  • buckwheat pasta tossed
  • local mushrooms
  • chicken

…just to name a few of the local foods that will be served.

This year, you can participate in the Eat Local Challenge too and have the chance to win an iPad.Β  You have to make a meal using local foods, take a photo, submit to Bon Appetit.Β  Here are the rules and details from Bon Appetit:

Local food

Local food has three key benefits:

  • It’s fresher, and therefore more nutritious
  • It travels fewer miles, which cuts down on pollution
  • It benefits your local economy.

Sure, you can’t get local strawberries in January most places, but who wants them anyway?Β  They taste like paper.Β  By eating local food, you can get the best flavors of the seasonal food, and that should more than make up for it.

There are of course some things that make eating locally difficult:

  • Food politics
  • Climate
  • Variety.

The way the food supply system is currently set up makes eating locally quite difficult.Β  On average, food travels 1500 miles before it ends up on your plate.Β  This is because intensive farming dominates, and a relatively small number of farms provide the bulk of the food.Β  It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is.Β  It’s simpler for grocery stores to deal with just a few suppliers rather than dozens of local suppliers, and if people don’t demand local food, why would grocery stores bother?

Obviously, climate also plays a role.Β  Somewhere like Massachusetts, it could be quite difficult to meet the nutritional needs of everyone on local food, since they have such a short growing season.Β  It is possible, as many foods can be grown or stored over the winter, but having access to a variety of foods is what helps people stay healthy and happy.

How to get started

Eating as locally as possible, and shipping in only necessary food, is a good compromise.

You can begin by trying to make just one meal completely from locally sourced food.Β  Even though we are headed into fall, here are some resources to help you started:

Find a farmers’ market:

The Eat.Drink.Better In Season Now archive:

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Ron Dressel

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