Feasting Green: Eat Local Challenge

By Beth Carter

Celebrate the summer's harvest—enjoy what Utah growers have to offer!
by Beth Carter
carterslowfood.jpgFor most Americans, food and oil-and we don't mean edible oil-are inextricably linked. Look in your cupboard and fridge: Where did those cookies and avocados come from, and how did they get here? 

Food often travels thousands of miles to reach the grocery store. By eating foods grown locally, we drastically reduce the amount of energy wasted in transport as well as support our local economy.

Salt Lakers Andrea and Michael Heidinger asked what might happen if they focused on a more regional diet. What if they challenged each other, and their friends, to "eat locally"?

So they sent out information to friends whom they thought might interested in such an experiment and invited them to a planning party. "We told them they could spread the word to others who might be interested, and-wow, it really spread! People are buzzing about it. They're doing research and putting the information on the blog that was set up after the party," says Michael.

From the blog you will learn, for instance, that, instead of buying exotic New Zealand lamb, you can find Utah's own Morgan Valley Lamb at Emigration and Broadway Markets and all Harmon's. Locally raised pork and beef are available. Aquarius Fish carries trout from Smithfield. Lehi Roller Mills produces quality flour and oats. Lots of area grocers sell mushrooms raised in Fillmore. The omega-3 eggs found at the 1800 South CostCo come from North Salt Lake. West Valley's Winder Farms offers milk from area cows. Fabulous local cheeses are available, too, made by Rockhill Creamery, Drake Family Farms Goat Dairy and Beehive Cheese Company.

The idea of eating only local foods has popped up nationally, and many other cities have started similar programs. In Salt Lake City, the challenge officially begins on Saturday, August 18.  It is primarily a group of motivated individuals (many of whom did not know each other beforehand) who have dedicated themselves to making this experiment happen. Slow Food Utah, Wasatch Community Gardens and Liberty Heights Fresh have also been supportive of the effort.

Here's how it works: You set your own guideline level, choosing to eat within  250 or 100 miles from home, for a day, a week or a month. You can decide to be a purist, eating only locally and cutting out even all additives and beverages that cannot be made locally such as olive oil, spices or coffee; or you can make exceptions for those foods that cannot be produced in the area.

Part of the fun in the challenge is researching local sources. You may find foods you didn't know grew or were produced here.  "Who is growing and where is it going?" The answers to these questions may spark an even deeper interest in food, food quality and environmental sustainability.

As kickoff approaches, more information will be available, including resources for local food and recipes, on the blog created for the challenge (http://localfoodchallenge.blogspot. com); participants can share their experiences.

Why not use this opportunity to celebrate local bounty and community? There's nothing like food to connect us to the world we live in.

Additional websites
slowfoodutah.org, utahsown.utah.gov, wasatchgardens.org, eatwild.org, foodsecurity.org, eatlocalchallenge.org, localvores.org

Recommended books

"Omnivore's Dilemma," Michael Pollan
"Plenty," Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon
"Coming Home to Eat," Gary Paul Nabhan
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," Barbara Kingsolver

This article was originally published on July 30, 2007.