One Step to Changing the World – Eat Locally

Today is “Meatless Monday“, a campaign that encourages us all to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health by eating less meat.  Today’s posting is a discussion about the “Eating Local” movement by my good friend, Vi Stoesz.  She and her husband Barry participated in a “100 Mile Diet for 100 days” experiment several years ago, and Vi was recently invited to share their experience with an interested group of women in Altona, Manitoba.  Vi was gracious enough to agree to my request to share her talk on this blog:

Thanks for inviting me to talk about my experience with the 100 Mile Diet.

In the spring of 2007, we had heard about the 100 Mile Diet and were inspired by the Vancouver couple who went on a local diet for one year, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. A couple from our church, Jennifer deGroot and Will Braun, had also been gardening in the city and been very committed to putting food up for the winter. Jennifer shared extensively about eating local with members of our church, Hope Mennonite.  She and Will also worked on a farm as part of their journey towards eating locally.

Via the grapevine, we heard of the 100 Mile Diet challenge for interested people in Winnipeg. The challenge was to eat food grown in a 100 mile radius for 100 days and they were hoping that 100 people would sign up to participate.  A website was formed, where people could register to be official participants.  The challenge lasted from September 1 –December 9, 2007.  The group that created the idea wanted the experience to be somewhat of a challenge so they started it in September rather than over the summer.  This gave us time to prepare, learn to put food up if we needed to, research local sources of food, and network with others.

In the early spring of 2007, I really thought about it and wondered if we could do it.  I love contests that have a competitive edge – especially if they include my husband.  My children were 18, 22, and 24 at the time so I didn’t really have anything more to say to them in terms of advice – they knew all the answers! However, I still wanted to be an inspiration to them just as my parents have been to me in terms of service and life challenges.   I also came to believe this experiment would be a direct act of faith, in keeping with God’s call to care for the environment.  By eating locally, our food travels less which reduces green house gas emissions, it tastes better, and – most of the time -there is less packaging. The foods eaten are whole foods, with less processing. I would have to do the processing.  My connection with the land that grows my food would be strengthened.  I liked that.   My demand for cheap exotic fruits like oranges, pineapple and bananas is also directly linked with the oppression of poor farmers who have to use their land to grow food for me instead of their families.  Were my choices in food affecting someone else’s livelihood and contributing to their poverty?  I needed to think about those connections, and  I wanted to connect my actions with my beliefs.  This would be a good opportunity to directly live out my faith and learn lots in the process.

I ran the idea past my husband Barry and he agreed to join me if he could still drink coffee and eat chocolate.  We had been drinking fair trade coffee for about a year – would we have to give that up too?  Would we really try to give up chocolate?  We talked to others who were joining about their thoughts on coffee, chocolate and salt. Where would we get salt?  It turns out the only source of salt we could find that was somewhat close was in Saskatchewan. Was this too far? It wasn’t 100 miles.  If we couldn’t get it locally, what will our food taste like without salt? What about spices?  Isn’t this something that the First Nations traded for furs?  We were getting scared and very hesitant about this whole thing.  We thought it was a bit crazy.  Why put ourselves through this?  Weren’t we already eating local chicken and going to farmer’s markets? We were concerned and spoke with others.  They reassured us that if we joined, there would not be daily visits from “100 Mile” police to check up on us, or dire consequences for diving into a chocolate bar in the middle of the night.  If some people wanted to join with a few exceptions, that would be acceptable, and they could still sign up.  The point of the experiment was to be as open and transparent as possible.  We were still scared but excited at the same time when we took the plunge and signed up.

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