Harvest time is the perfect time to ask yourself about your local in-season abundance.
How Local Is Local?
How far does your food travel to reach your table? On average, 1,500-2,500 miles. Food miles are certainly not the only consideration, but this is one more factor you can use to consider the environmental impact of your life. If you eat fresh foods in season, you can also cut down on the energy needed to transport or store foods. A lot of people focus on a 100-mile diet as local, but in the sparsely populated west you may need to expand your reach to 250 miles.
The reasons to support local foods are far more complex than even the complexity of figuring out their environmental impact. We could put our trust in 3rd-party labels that assure us that food from far away is grown to specific standards. Or, we could meet the farmers and ask them. We can and probably do use both methods to learn about the food we eat.
As more individuals and organizations work to rebuild sustainable food systems, you will find more and more resources to help you meet the local food challenge.
These are some of my favorite local food resources.
Local Slow Food Chapter.
The Slow Food movement started in Italy in contrast to (hold on for the surprise) fast food. Slow food is not the same thing as local food, but I have found that local slow foodies are among the best resources for local food. In addition, with slow food you get a focus on slowing down to enjoy food with family and others.
Local Food Thanksgiving.
The Eat Well Guide and the Consumers’ Union have teamed up to encourage a local food Thanksgiving. Participants are encouraged to use at least one local food in their holiday meal then submit their recipes, which you can then share.
Ask yourself if national brands’ “Real Food” campaigns are really local. I include this article on greenwashing local foods from Hamilton Ontario Slow Food Convivium head because it is a great example of how mass market brands use “sophisticated deflection of the aims of the sustainable local food movement” to help us close our eyes to what local food really means.
Locavores in Hamilton, Ontario, hold a week-long Localicious event involved local chefs and restaurants. Many cities now have enough of a local food movement to support this kind of event.
Local Food Wheel.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay or New York City areas, there is a great local food wheel available that shows which local foods are available in which season. I don’t live in a either of these cities, so I’ve had to come up with my own sad and incomplete version of this local food wheel.
The best resources on local foods are going to be local eaters. Find out if any of your grocery stores are local. One of the chains local to me, a regional chain, stocks a lot of local foods from turkeys to potato chips to fruit. If you do some research, especially if you pool information with other local foodies, you can often find a big variety of local foods.
Start by looking for a local chapter of Slow Foods then keep digging.
To all of our readers in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have managed to find some local food.
For my family, we have local turkey, hyper local pumpkin, and local flour all from within 100 miles. Much of the rest of our holiday meal comes from within 250 miles. Once you get in the habit and adjust to the food of your region, it’s easy. Good luck!