Overcoming the challenge of eating locally

BlogHer Original Post

This week's Eat Local Challenge focus is Personal Challenges.

How can we personally eat locally in a sustainable manner? What is the "low-hanging fruit" with regard to eating locally that we can easily change during this week?

Stick with your local and regional specialties
As my eating habits have shifted, I've moved to almost exclusively using local olive oils and vinegars. Big Paw Grub out of Campbell, CA, makes incredible products in a variety of flavored and unflavored renditions, and I can sample and purchase their wares at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market any Saturday less than a mile from my apartment, so it's hard to justify picking up imported oils and vinegars instead. But I live in Northern California, so I have those ingredients in my 150-mile radius.

But that is one of the things I like best about the challenge: everyone has something they can enjoy because it's very local to their foodshed. There are no pineapples grown within 150 miles of my apartment, but those of you who live on the Hawaiian Islands probably get tired of it. Iowa, Missouri and Illinois residents have access to locally-grown chestnuts that I can't get where I live. And try getting a locally-grown cranberry anywhere outside New England.

Make friends at market
I also have regular vendors that I buy from all the time at the local farmer's market. The Hippie Pasta Guy (that's not his real name, but that's what we all call him) at the Jack London Square Market in Oakland sells Il Pastaio's great, fresh and frozen pastas and gnocchi in a variety of shapes and flavors. Thanks to customer demand, Il Pastaio has branched out into whole wheat varieties. And while the Hippie Pasta Guy doesn't show up 52 weeks a year, he is quick to provide tips on freezing his fresh pasta so you can stock up for the weeks when he's away.

I've also identified a local organic farm, Happy Boy Farms, that provides me a great one-stop shopping experience year-round, as well. They grow a great variety of produce, so I never get bored. Developing your own regular roster of vendors, and talking to them about how they recommend preserving their food or wares for times when they are not at market, is a great way to build relationships with the people who help feed you, and it means eating locally requires much less thought and effort.

When eating out, think local
What about making different choices when going out to eat? Sites like Local Harvest provide lists of local restaurants that serve sustainable, local food. By choosing to eat somewhere that buys their food from local farmers and producers, you're using your dollars to directly support a local food system. Yes, sometimes restaurants that make that extra effort are going to be more expensive than a standard chain sit-down restaurant, but that's not always the case. Still, I'd rather eat at home more often and go out occasionally for a fantastic meal made from ingredients sourced nearby than go out a couple of times per week to a restaurant that serves pretty average, homogenized food. I like the food I eat to reflect the environment in which I live. 

If you're (either officially or unofficially) participating in the Eat Local Challenge, what additional changes are you making this week to eat closer to home? Are there easy steps you have taken or will take this week that you can share with others thinking about trying to become locavores?

Here are three other bloggers who are grappling with and providing resources on locavorism as they participate in this year's challenge:

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009.

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