This post is the first in a series supporting the Eat Local Challenge 2009 from City Market/Onion River Co-op in Burlington, Vermont. The Challenge is the week of September 21, 2009.
Local food. 100-mile radius. Seasonal eating. All great ideas, but why would anyone commit to abide by such rules for an entire week in a place like Vermont? That’s what City Market is asking its customers to do as part of the Eat Local Challenge 2009 the week of September 21. My family has enthusiastically agreed to take their challenge, as well as write about our experience. This initial post should give you a flavor of what to expect.
According to the Mad River Valley Locavore Project, an organization with an outstanding local food track record, the Eat Local Challenge “is an event where participants pledge to eat only locally grown and produced foods. Participants will have the option of choosing to pledge by the meal (one or more meals), by the day (one or more days), or for the entire week.”
By challenging ourselves in such ways, we will increase our awareness of the food we eat, where it comes from, how it was grown, who grew it and more. Regardless of how far any of us has already come, there is always room to learn more, but given the complexity of today’s industrial food system and large-scale conventional supermarkets, increasing our understanding of food can be very challenging. Thankfully, in Burlington and communities throughout Vermont we have food cooperatives, farmers markets and community-support agriculture (CSA) farms that allow us to get much closer to local foods.
The fact is most Americans take their food for granted. Cheap, convenient food is everywhere, and is often treated as an accessory in today’s fast-paced lifestyles. The problem is much of what we consume today isn’t really food; it is highly processed calories made to resemble food. Sophisticated marketers wrap those calories up in slick packaging and push them into the marketplace with large marketing budgets. And what appears cheap at the register is made so through taxpayer-funded crop subsidies, industry-friendly regulations and deferred costs related to our health, the environment and regional economies.
As you might imagine, tracing ingredients in such processed foods back to their sources is nearly impossible, since doing so would expose the inner workings of industrial food’s “black box”, which brings me back to the importance of locally grown and/or processed foods.
Over the next several weeks leading up to the challenge, I will be sharing more on why supporting local foods is important. Being 100% local in a place like Vermont for one week will be tough. Doing so year round nearly impossible, except for the most committed. But making such efforts is exactly what consumers – who have grown accustom to having whatever foods they want, whenever they want them – must do in order to reclaim control over the food we eat.