I got an email at work a few days ago mentioning this ‘100-Mile diet’ so I had to look into it.
The 100-Mile diet (or 160 km diet) started as a self-imposed experiment thought up by writers and environmentalists Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon from Vancouver in 2005. In an effort to lessen their carbon footprint, they decided to eat and drink only foods grown within a 100 mile radius of their apartment. When they traveled (i.e to New York and Mexico) they continued to eat locally.
They had to give up lots of foods like sugar, rice, lemons, ketchup, olive oil, peanut butter, orange juice. It took the couple 7 months to find a local wheat farmer so they also had to live without bread and pasta for that time. They ate a lot of potatoes. In the process, they involuntarily lost some weight, learned about where their food came from and about how foods should taste!
Once their year was up, they more or less remained on the 100-mile diet, adding in some of their long-distance favourites like olives, chocolate and beer.
Their personal experiment got quite a bit of media attention and started the 100-Mile Diet movement. The couple chronicled their experience in their book: The 100-Mile Diet: A year of local eating.
According to 100milediet.org, the average ingredient on a North American plate has travelled a 1500 miles, although some foods travel way more- 10000 miles or more even... a substantial cost in non-renewable fuel energy! Remember that even if a food is organic, it could still have travelled thousands of kilometres.
In 2002, US Congress passed a law requiring Country-Of-Origin Labelling (COOL) but, not surprisingly, it was opposed by the food industry and COOL has been postponed until fall 2008. We’ll see if it happens... Some supermarkets (like Whole Foods) voluntarily provide country-of-origin labelling. It’s usually cheaper buying from local farmers though.
Interested in eating locally and doing your part in making the planet greener?
Step 1 is to find out what foods are in season and build your diet around the ones that are grown locally. Check out http://www.eattheseasons.com .
For example, foods in season for April (in North America) are:
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, broccolini, fava beans, kale, potatoes (maincrop), radishes, rhubarb, sunchoke, turnis. Fruits: Blood oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple. Meat and Seafood: Lamb, crab, crayfish, mackerel and mussels.
Step 2 is to shop at local farmers’ markets, supermarkets that carry local produce or find out where your local farms are and buy directly from them. Search the web- there are sites like: http://www.newdream.org/consumer/farmersmarkets.php to help you.
Step 3would be to plant your own garden... once all this snow melts!
Let me know if you try any of these steps. I myself plan to do my part by shopping at Farmers' Markets more regularly and will plant my own garden this year! I'll keep you posted on how it goes!
Nestle, Marion. What to Eat. 2006.