Eat Local Challenge Part 2

Farmers' market photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor

Eating locally-grown food is appropriately called a challenge because it’s admittedly more difficult to do than I anticipated.  For one, I’m a picky eater with limited time to grocery shop and prepare food.  Fortunately I enjoy fruits and most vegetables, both of which are easily found in the “locally-grown” category.  What’s not easily found around me are sources of protein and grains.  In fact rice, a local staple isn’t even grown here in Hawaii.

Another reason why this challenge has been challenging is because I didn’t do my homework on where I can find the local version of foods I eat.  Take chicken for example.  I just assumed Whole Foods or the local farmers’ market would have local chicken available.  Well they don’t.  Rumor has it that, it is possible to buy locally raised chicken but I never took the time to find out where to buy it, when the vendor is open, how far would I have to drive to pick it up, etc.  Same goes for eggs.

I also didn’t psychologically prepare to give up foods that simply might not be available to me.  This is a big one because the idea of food restriction doesn’t come easily to me.  I’ve rarely felt the need to restrict anything I enjoy eating.  (My exception was when I couldn’t eat wheat for a few month because I was having mild reactions to it.  It was miserable.)  Depending on your relationship with food, this aspect of the eat local challenge may not be an issue.

My last and biggest obstacle with this challenge is I failed to get my fiance on board.  He’s easy going enough that if I came home with a bag full of locally grown produce (which I did last Sunday) he’ll eat it and won’t ask about the Tater Tots.  But I need more support than that.  It’s important that he helps me stay on track when that loaf of french bread from California is saying “wouldn’t I taste good with Nutella?” or when I’m too tired to cook, the frozen pizza all of a sudden looks like a healthy option if I bought the vegetarian one.  It didn’t take much to convince my fiance that this challenge would be good for us.  But it’ll take much more effort convincing him to care enough to take action with me.

Needless to say, my performance with this eat locally-grown food challenge isn’t going so well.  But I’m still committed to it for the long haul, especially since I’ll be feeding an entire family one day.  I want to make sure our healthy eating habits start now.

On the flip side, there’s limited (if any) evidence to show that an imported tomato (or grape, or zucchini) is more nutritious than one grown within a 100 mile radius from your home, however, economically it’s better to keep those dollars within the community.  Purchasing locally grown food also means there’s less need for preservatives and genetically modified organisms designed to ripen on route to your grocery store.  Local food is also less likely to be produced from large factories containing lots of processed ingredients, refined sugars, sodium, and trans fats.  So in that sense eating locally produced food is healthier.

So I have lots of homework: 1. Find out what’s actually available around me; 2. Figure out the accessibility of these vendors; 3.Assess how willing I am to modify my lifestyle; 4. Propagate pro local food information into my fiance’s head!

A friend once told me “I’ll only eat what I feel comfortable killing.” Under this parameter, the only meat she ate was fish.  Sharing her sentiment for respecting the food we consume, there’s something encouraging and “feel good” about eating food purchased directly from the farmer who grew it or better yet the food we’ve grown ourselves.  Anything to encourage me and others to eat more fresh produce is a plus regardless of whether the jury is still out about if it’s actually healthier apple for apple.

Eat Local Challenge Part 1

Local fruits sold at Whole Foods

Going green has become the new black.  Not only is sustainability trendy, it’s a necessity if we have any desire to leave the next few generations a world they can live in.  For today’s post I’m going to pick on one particular issue under the larger umbrella of disastrous crimes against mother earth.

Food consumption in America.

This issue is tricky because we all need to eat.  Modern conveniences has afforded most of us food accessibility and food options beyond imagination.  We are free to pursue careers and work jobs outside of a one acre radius from our homes because we no longer spend our days tending and harvesting crops for our family and community.  I acknowledge the value  and role in which modern agricultural practices enable the lives we live today.

However, what’s the price of this lifestyle on our environment?

Our nation’s hearty appetite for cattle means that more land is used to raise beef.  More cattle means more methane released into the atmosphere adding to the greenhouse affect.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

…the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

Livestock reportedly uses some 30% of the world’s land surface.  Meat production also requires energy and water.  The Sierra Club asserts that,

16 pounds of wheat and up to 2,500 gallons of water are necessary to produce one pound of grain-fed beef. Cattle production also consumes large amounts of fossil fuels – about a gallon of gasoline per pound of beef – and produces water pollution.

Grains, fruits, and vegetables are environmental culprits as well, especially when we eat out of season and out of region produce.  Non-organic produce uses harmful pesticides and chemicals in the soil and on the food itself.  Also, shipping that mango to New York from the Philippines leaves a significant carbon footprint, adding to greenhouse gases.

Buying local reduces your carbon footprint

The Eat Local Challenge

Kanu Hawaii, a local non-profit dedicated to sustainability and community compassion launched an “Eat Local Challenge” today with the goal of getting 2,000 Kanu Hawaii members to eat locally-grown food for seven days (September 26 – October 2).  Alternatives to this challenge included eating local for a day, allocating 10% of your food budget to local foods, learning about candidates views on food policies for the upcoming election, and organizing a local food only potluck among many other ideas.

I’m taking on parts of this challenge (eating locally-grown foods for a day and allocating 10% of my grocery budget to local produce) to help reduce the environmental impact of living a modern life.  Eating locally will also help me eat more healthy, which I’ll talk about in the follow up post.

So far I’ve been grocery shopping once.  I’m happy to report everything I bought, except for free-range chicken was 100% locally-grown.  I didn’t buy much though.  Just a mango, half a pound of ahi, fresh salsa, buk choy, flat beans, and apple bananas.  This is also what I plan to eat tonight.

It was challenging to buy food for the week.  Considering where I live (Hawaii), it was disappointing to see how little food I could buy with these restrictions.  Luckily organizers of this Eat Local Challenge have put together resources on where to buy locally and have also partnered with various restaurants to highlight where in their menu, locally-grown produce is being used.

What do you think of the Eat Local Challenge?  How easily could you pull it off?  If you’re already doing something similar please share your thoughts and tips.

Happy eating everyone.