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Eating Local

In Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the bestselling author chronicles the year she and her family spent as locavores, eating only locally grown food. In the narrative, which came out in May 2007, Kingsolver moves from Tucson to a family farm in southwest Virginia and lives off home and locally-grown foods.

Kingsolver isn't the only one giving up big-name brands and supermarkets. Challenges to promote local eating are popping up all over the country. In these challenges, participants can only eat food grown within 100 miles of where they live for a certain period of time. Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon launched their own 100-Mile Diet in 2005 and wrote about it in their upcoming book 100-Mile Diet. "This is more than a trend, it's a movement that is changing everything from distribution systems to the food being served in public institutions to the choice of crops farmers are putting in the ground," they said in an e-mail.

The average food item now travels a minimum of 1,500 miles from a farm to the consumer's household, according to 100milediet.org. Bland, unhealthy food made with unknown chemicals has shaken consumers' confidence in the industrial food system, said Smith and MacKinnon. These reasons have led many people to follow the new movement. To start, nearly 25 percent of American shoppers buy organic products once a week, up from 17 percent in 2000. But "local is the new organic," said Smith and Mackinnon. They predicted that local eating will change the food system over the next 10 to 15 years to at least the same degree organic food did in the past 10 to 15 years.

Personal motives for undertaking the "locavore" lifestyle range from altruistic ideals of helping to reduce global warming and preserve fossil fuels to supporting small farmers and businesses. Additionally, using local, organic foods prepared from scratch and without additives or preservatives could have health benefits.

Take the Challenge

Here are some challenge Web sites devoted to creating awareness offer information about organizations and events:

  • 100MileDiet.org
    A resourceful site that provides reasons to eat locally, a guide for starting out (includes a mapping tool to find your own 100-mile boundary), recent news and links to smaller local organizations.

  • EatLocalChallenge.com
    A group blog of writers across the nation spread the locavore love. The posts are informative and entertaining, and the site also features some helpful entries for beginners, including how to participate in the next challenge, tips for participants and day-by-day entries from past challenges.

For an even more local community feel, take a look at regional challenges. The following Web sites are for some of the locavore challenges and organizations across the country:

Educate Yourself

Want to find the best food grown closest to your home? Go to LocalHarvest.org, where you can type in your zip code, city or state and find the nearest farms, farmers' markets, grocery stores and more. You can also buy organic products from the Online Store.

The trend has been getting a lot of mainstream press, as well. Check out these articles about locavores and the organic way of life in Time magazine, The New York Times, and The Nation.

   --- A. Karps

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