Since Blessing the Hands that Feed Us came out in January, I’ve gone from author to activist with a passion for restoring regional food systems so we-the-eaters can have more fresh, local food and our food producers can have more fresh money in their pockets.
Especially exciting is the 10-Day Local Food Challenge. Click here to read all about it. Simply put, in October you’re invited to join an experiment: can you, for just 10 days, eat only what grows within 100 miles of your home? Be part of a grassroots research team exploring the question: how local can we go? Join the Transition US launch teleclass on September 23. More details below.
An All Local Grocery Store and Deli plus an Education and Distribution Hub
One stop shopping, right off the ferry, for local food on Whidbey Island. Because I want to bring my activism as close to home as my eating, I facilitated a Local Food Design Lab on Whidbey, where we clarified the need for a Local Food Center with everything from groceries to take out food to educational programs to a distribution hub. Guess what? We formed a non-profit group called the Food Shed and we’re underway, securing a building, finding merchants, making plans for remodeling the space. This sort of innovation is happening across the US and beyond. Food system activists are restoring distribution webs for local food, rebuilding food processing capability, digging in to challenging issues like land ownership and onerous regulations.
10-Day Local Food Challenge
Local, they say, is the new organic. It nourishes you: body, soul and community. But local sourcing is almost impossible. Few communities have enough local production to cover even 5% of eaters’ daily fare. Most of us depend almost entirely the corporate industrial food system for every bite we eat.
Local used to be the way everyone ate. Could it be again? Let’s run the 10-Day Local Food Challenge and see. How local can we go? For how long? The challenge isn’t just “can you do it?” It’s “can we do it? Can we all bring our eating closer to home? And if not, why not?
The experiment is simple: For 10 days or more eat food grown within 100 miles or less of your home. Give yourself 10 or fewer exotics, foods from afar (like coffee or oil) to make it do-able.
Why 10 days? That’s long enough to go through a life-changing experience but not so long that busy people can’t imagine doing it. Go more if you like. The longer you go, the more you see, the more you change.
Why 100 miles? In 2005, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon began a one-year experiment in 100-mile eating. Their 2007 book, Plenty, told that story, inspiring thousands of people – and even whole communities – to try it. One hundred miles is now almost synonymous with “local”.
Also, 100 miles as the crow flies should be an abundant, varied eating region for most of us. You can cast a smaller circle if you want to, and go wider if you are sure that 100 miles still won’t work where you live. The USDA considers 400 miles “local” – a day’s drive. Some people think of their state as local.
The idea is to set the bar high enough so you stretch, but low enough so you are pretty sure you can do it. The point isn’t the miles; it’s community, belonging and abundant local food systems.
Why 10 exotics or less? Some foods are so essential to our well-being that excluding them could be a deal breaker. What are your exotics? Oil? Avocados? Chocolate? Coffee? Salt?
Why do it at all?
For fun, for curiosity, for integrity, for health, for the love of farmers and community, for making friends, for encouraging others to eat local food, for building an alternative to food-as-usual, for taking a stand for the food system we-the-eaters want: fresh, locally-produced, fair, affordable food for all.
This isn’t just an adventure. It’s grassroots research. Does the challenge actually inspire more people to eat more local food more of the time? And do our local food systems have enough to feed us? And if not, why not? We want to know:
▪ How did the experiment go?
Remember, this is an experiment. There are no wrong answers. No failures. All experience is information.
Sign up for the Challenge here.
Local isn’t the new right way. It just needs more room at our tables – and that’s going to require a lot of change.
Let’s be relational eaters together
Won’t you dive in with me to transforming the way we eat from anywhere, anything, anytime eating to local relational eating? “Foodies” are known for their gourmet palate and artisanal preferences – but local food is so much more. It’s belonging to a people and a place – ending the restless search for greener pastures (fertilized by what?). It’s empowerment, taking back some of our food autonomy. It’s rebuilding rural economies – making it profitable for young people to come back to the farm after they’ve lost their city jobs.
Other food values have moved from the margins to the mainstream. Organic. Non-toxic. Vegan. It’s time for Local to build the capacity to feed the people. A lot of this has to do with the non-sexy parts of eating. Not glistening dishes but building local distribution hubs and gaining entry into markets. Even defining “what is local” is complex – but it has to be done. Incentives and priorities need to change.
All this is why I want you to do the 10-Day Local Food Challenge: we need to learn from the grassroots up what a local Live-it (not Die-it) means.