Save the World and Save a Dime: Eat Locally


Paul Michael's recent post on processed foods and Andrea Dickson's on the Manhattan family trying to live without impacting the environment got me thinking. One one hand, Paul's exposing us to some very real perils in the industry responsible for pretty much everything we consume. On the other, Andrea tells us about a family going to very extreme measures to address these perils and more. It's admirable what the Manhattan familiy is doing, but living without toilet paper, or composting inside a city apartment are a bit much for most people. But there's a group of bloggers who offer a more feasible challenge, designed for sustainability, deliciousness, good stories, and now, even for saving a buck or two: eat locally.

The Eat Local Challenge can mean different things to different people. For some, it's a 100-mile radius, while for others, anything that comes from within their state is fair game. There may be exceptions, like soy sauce, or black pepper. It might be a commitment to reshape your entire diet, or just a single dish made exclusively from local foods brought to a Thanksgiving dinner. But the idea is, you start thinking about the food you're consuming. You ask questions from the employees at your local grocer, or at the farmer's market (a real haven for diverse, fresh local goods). You boost your local economy and eliminate the environmental costs of long-range transportation and packaging, even more effectively than by eating organically.

It is a true challenge, but the payoff is an oasis from many of the issues introduced by food processing, not to mention delicious new taste experiences. Eating locally means you can't have everything all the time, but instead you get a feel for seasonality -- fruits and vegetables at the peak of flavor and ripeness. Plus, local produce is certainly fresher than pears shipped from China or cucumbers from Mexico (unless of course, you happen to be living in China or Mexico).

The folks at Eat Local Challenge have been churning out a variety of challenges over the last couple years, and the latest focuses on budget: The Penny-wise Eat Local Challege. For one week in April, they will be eating locally, but also staying within the budget of the average American, which according to the Department of Labor, this could be as low as $121 a week for a single-income household. No doubt there will be trying moments, but that's part of budgeting, right?

Here's some more info:

The official announcement of the Penny Wise Challenge

Nuts and bolts details of the Penny Wise Challenge

10 Reasons to Eat Local

Tips for Eating Locally

Time Magazine Article on the 100-mile Diet

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Guest's picture

Very inspiring article on nutrition...I'm in.

Guest's picture

While the intention is good and the result is may be beneficial as well, the eat locally concept is not always best for either the environment or the consumer. As examples, in Hong Kong I can chose between foods imported from China (the local equivalent) or foods imported from further away. If I buy the foods from China I am taking a much greater risk in terms of harmful pesticides etc than with foods from further away. Another example is over exploitation of a resource. If eating locally sourced food is taken too literally, densely populated areas would end up depeleting local fish stocks. However, by eating fish from further away (assuming catching is done on a sustainable basis) the risk of pushing fish stocks in either the local or the more distant locations to dangerously low levels is reduced.

A great idea, but one that needs to be implemented selectively in order to avoid doing as much environmental harm as good.

Guest's picture

I live in Nebraska, does anyone know where can I get some local seafood?

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

awesome Matt! Let us know how it goes!

And traineeinvestor, there are a lot of nuances to this concept. Going through some of the blog entries, there are plenty of different interpretations of the idea of 'local', and there is room for exceptions in the challenge as well. Location plays a huge role, and it's certainly easier to make it work in San Francisco than Hong Kong, but I guess you do what you can.

Of course the idea is that by trying, and in doing so beginning to ask the questions and get the dialogue going between food providers and consumers, you might be able to affect change -- which is more feasible on a local scale than a grander one.

And STJ, I hear the fishing's not so good these days on the Nebraskan coast! Seriously though, here is the Eat Local Challenge's Midwest posts, and here is a blog written by a cattle rancher in Nebraska. Even a search for 'nebraska food ' on google gives you plenty of resources for local food.