Every June, here in New Orleans, we have the Eat Local Challenge. Participants agree to eat food that grown or caught within a 200 mile radius of New Orleans. This year we decided to give it a try.
For people who eat very few packaged foods this would seem like an easy task. I went into it confident that it would not be a problem. On day three we ran out of coffee. . .oops! It was either cheat or go without coffee. . .any guesses on what happened here? A couple of days later I was in Costco and headed for the produce section intent on getting avocados and onions. I got them in the cart and then remembered the challenge. . .
I won’t go day-to-day, but suffice to say that it proved to be quite a challenge!. Aside from coffee, things I use frequently that were not available locally included: almonds, cashews, chia seeds, gluten-free oats, black beans and organic spinach. There were other small things that were not grown or caught locally that were easy to substitute but still missed: Himalayan salt, vanilla, bananas and kefir. Turns out eating locally isn’t that easy after all.
I whole wholeheartedly support the idea of eating local. Given the choice between organic food at Costco that is shipped from far away or eating locally grown pesticide-free food, I will always choose local. The difference in nutrient value between organic green beans shipped from Mexico a week ago and fresh pesticide-free green beans picked this morning is immense! For me pesticide free in important! Organic? Not so much.
The problems with the local challenge were really two-fold: a poor local distribution system for fresh produce and other food stuffs and the constraints of living in this particular climate. Add to that the fact that I am spoiled by living in the US were produce from California, Chili and Mexico is so common and stores like Costco are everywhere. I know some of the foods I couldn’t source locally are grown within 200 miles, but getting them was close to impossible.
We flunked the local challenge. We went into it with great intentions, but by the end of the first week we were thinking of giving up. At the end of two weeks, we did. It was eye-opening and consciousness raising to try it. I doubt we will attempt it again.