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100 miles

"When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles—call it "the SUV diet." On the first day of spring, 2005, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon chose to confront this unsettling statistic with a simple experiment. For one year, they would buy or gather their food and drink from within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia."

This spawned the movement/book/blog The 100-Mile Diet. I love the idea of it, though I doubt I'll be able to put it into any kind of practice for a while. We try to buy from farmers' markets when we can, and given a choice between "northwest-grown" and elsewhere-grown at the grocery I'll choose the NW version, but other than that I cringe a bit to think that everything I eat has probably traveled farther than I have in the last year.

Anyway. One thing they've been commenting on is that a local diet - i.e., eating things only when they're in season - promotes a style of eating where you eat a few things nonstop for a few weeks, then change to a few new things nonstop, and so on. And I realized - my natural eating patterns follow this style exactly. I will want one or two things all the time for a week or two, and then suddenly get sick of them and search around for something new. This wreaks havoc with a normal modern diet, where we try to have the same staples on hand year round (which also makes shopping far simpler). But looked at from the evolutionary perspective of eating things as they are in season, it makes complete sense.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)
Having just discovered the awesomeness that is our local farmer's market, this sounds like a great idea!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
I just bought their book, Plenty, a couple of nights ago. Haven't read it yet. Having a CSA has helped a lot with eating locally, forcing me to cook and think about my food. I always look at labels now to see where stuff comes from and if I have a choice I buy the stuff from CA. My favorite cheese and yogurt are both made within 100mi of me (well, I think - they're a couple of counties away and I'm not sure exactly where within those counties but it has to be close) from local ingredients and my favorite bread is made in berkeley (though I don't know where they source their ingredients from).
Jun. 22nd, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC)
HEB (excellent local grocery store chain) has a line of simple high quality frozen pizzas I usually keep a couple of in my freezer for the random hungry and don't want to leave the house events.

They are made in italy.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
At least now and then part of my diet and the diet of other members of my household includes the lemons and oranges that grow in our backyard. :) I really am quite fond of our fruit trees. Even as I very much envy the neighbors who are growing avocadoes or artichokes.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)
While calling it the "SUV diet" is a total misnomer: it suggests transporting food uses more energy than producing it, for example, it is true that locally grown ingredients which are permitted to tree-ripen, rather than be chemically ripened, are far better for you.

And the reason why most people consume foods produced and shipped from long distances (usually by train, not by SUV, which is extremely fuel efficient) is because by concentrating our living in a small number of highly populated centers, there is simply not enough arable land surrounding many major population centers to support that population center. The Romans valued certain food stuffs (such as olives) because of their durability during transport, and wheat and rice are valued in the world for similar reasons.

I do like the idea of supporting local farmers, however. And tree-ripened peaches and nectarines are often just to die for.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)
I've been trying to cultivate an awareness of this issue, but it's slow going.

The feasibility of such a diet all depends on where you live. Google has an on-campus cafe called Cafe 150 that follows this principal. Except for coffee & salt, everything they serve (400 meals per day) comes from within 150 miles of the cafe. But that cafe is in Mt. View, California. We have a lot of options in the Pacific Northwest, but being strict about such a diet in, say, February, leaves you open to nutritional deficiency (unless you spend your summer canning like a fiend.)

For a radius-based diet, I'd recommend starting with a larger radius at first and then cutting back or something like starting with particular foods (produce being a fairly obvious choice.) Or possibly during certain months of the year--i.e. get the fruit & veggies you need in the winter from whereever they are available, but be picky about travel distance in the summer. Things like eggs and dairy are year-round options once you determine which brand is the "local" brand. For something like soymilk, I would survey the readily available brands, pick the one that's closest, and call it good. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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