Posted on March 8, 2011 by
As every Greenist knows, a local economy is an environmentally friendly economy. In 2005, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon gave us a hard definition of ‘local’ when they decided to experiment with a diet built around foods that are produced within a 100 mile radius of their home.
The resulting book, The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, has become a sort of user’s manual for thousands of people who followed in their dietary footsteps. MacKinnon and Smith are in Canada; Barbara Kingsolver wrote about her year of local eating in Virginia in her bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. While no book is planned, I’ll be taking the 100 Mile Diet Challenge myself, but for only the month of July instead of a full year.
What’s the point of this?
- The most obvious advantage of eating local is the quality of the food; if you play your cards right, you can eat it within hours of harvest. Peas and tomatoes grown in your neighborhood haven’t turned to cardboard during shipment and your tastebuds will delight in experiencing the real flavor of fresh veggies.
- The 100 Mile Diet also supports local economies. Is there any area of the country that doesn’t need a little help these days? And wouldn’t you rather hand over your dollars to a hard-working, ethical small farmer than to a mega-billion dollar corporation? Sure you would.
Of course, I’ll have to adjust your household menu while on the diet. As Kingsolver points out in her book, bananas aren’t grown in these parts. Neither is coffee. Building meals around local food is going to require me to consider food I don’t normally eat, but that’s a good thing. Like most people, I’m in a food rut; this July I’ll make the acquaintance of foods I’ve never eaten before, thereby broading my culinary boundaries and my meal options.
I’m also looking forward to learning about and meeting food producers in my area. Hard to believe, but it wasn’t until I started researching this diet that I learned we have a working corn and flour mill within 45 miles of my house. (They also cater weddings and other events.)
Another benefit of The 100 Mile Diet Challenge: no rules. That’s why I can try it for only a month instead of a year. Another person might decide to keep the bananas or other exotic, well-traveled food. Maybe you’d want to give it a go for one week, or one day, or one meal.
Even if you don’t find this appealing and never plan to change your eating habits, I have a suggestion — go ahead and put it on paper. Plan a week’s worth of menus using only food that grows within your radius. It’s a great way to learn about food producers who live and grow near you, an easy way to meet people who share your green values, and an eye-opening tour of your own hometown.