Local Food Challenge
Want to find out how much of the food you eat is fresh, local and harvested at juicy ripeness or how much is travel weary from its trek across the continent or around the earth? Take the Local Food Challenge and measure your food foot print.

For immediate release: Local Food Cafe is sponsoring the Local Food Challenge this September to find out just how much we eat locally and how big a food foot print we leave in a week. The Challenge will run from Friday, September 12th through Thursday, September 18th and is aimed at becoming an annual activity globally. Discover how much of the food you eat is grown near by, how much is from your region and how much travels across country or across continents to get to your plate.

Why this challenge?

The closer food grows to your kitchen, the fresher, riper and tastier it is likely to be. Local fruits and veggies can be picked at their peak ripeness unlike non-local which are usually picked underripe to reduce damage and bruising during transport. Would you want to eat a two-week-old hamburger? The same goes for fruits and veggies. Fresh-picked looks, tastes, and feels much better.

Locally-grown food doesn't have to stop at the gas station. When food is grown nearby, it doesn't have far to travel, therefore less gasoline (fossil fuel) is used for delivery from farm to plate. Less gasoline means less pollution. Less pollution means healthier air, water and people.

Local food helps the local economy. Support the farmers in your town, city or region and they'll help support you by stimulating the economy with their business. An increased number of local jobs and preservation of green space also increases the value of an area.

Need more reasons? Buying local...

  • Makes it easier to find out how organically it was grown
  • Makes it easier to find out if farm workers are treated well and paid a living wage
  • Increases local food security
  • Has greater nutritional content
  • Preserves local food specialties and traditions
  • Allows for more and better access to tastier heirloom varieties
  • Preserves genetic diversity

Why now?

September is a month of local abundance in most of the northern hemisphere with a full array of late summer and early fall foods. In the southern hemisphere, there is usually a good selection of early spring foods available. It should be realtively easy to eat a complete, well-balanced diet from local foods in September. If you're not eating locally during one of the most abundant months of the year, either you're missing out on a tasty and sustainable opportunity or there may be holes in your local food security.

Calculate Your
Local Food Percentage

To calculate your percentages for the week, follow these steps:

1. Add up the total number of pounds of food you ate for the week. If you used a digital scale this is straightforward. If you weighed in ounces, remember that there are 16 ounces to a pound. If you used cups or metric volume add as you would for pounds.

2. For each category, make a fraction: # of pounds (or cups) in category, over total # of pounds (or cups).

3. Divide top number by bottom number to get your percentage.

How do I get in on the fun?

From September 12th through September 18th, check to see where the foods you eat are grown. Measure the amount of each food. Measuring by weight is best, but if you do not have scales, please feel free to measure in cups or by metric volume. As long as you stick with one measurement method for everything, you will be able to evaluate your information.

Don't measure any tap/well water which you add to your food. On the other hand, if you use bottled water, please measure it and log how far it came to get to you. For instance if you make soup, weigh the dry beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, peppers and spices, but not the water they are cooked in.

List the food and weight/measurement in one of the following categories. The categories represent degrees of freshness and amount of energy used for transporting the food. At the end of the week, calculate out what percentage of your food consumption falls into each category for a snapshot of how locally you eat (see box for calculation instructions).

Homegrown Fresh
Food you or your family grew. May include food grown at an earlier time which hasn't been processed beyond harvesting, washing, and storing. Examples of food grown at an earlier time and stored are potatoes, carrots in sand, cabbages, apples, winter squash, etc. Fresh, maximum nutrients, generally uses the least nonrenewable energy. Maximum possibilities for avoiding pollution of all sorts. Note: you may choose to eat this food fresh or cooked and still consider it in this category.

Homegrown Preserved
Dried, canned, frozen, pickled, fermented. More energy used. May or may not result in need for recycling or waste removal.

Grown within 1 Square Mile
A 15- to 20-minute walk for most people. This is the amount of walking that many people are willing to do on a regular basis.

Grown within 3 miles
An hour walk for most people. An easy bike ride in terms of distance. Likely within public transportation if public transportation is available. People are less willing to walk this on a regular basis, but it's quite doable for most if there in some sort of transportation disruption.

Grown within 50 miles
This is drivable in an hour or less. It's likely been picked within 24 hours of purchase. It is possible to get this food by bicycle.

Grown within 250 miles
This is half a day on a truck. It's likely to be at least one to two days old by the time of arrival.

Grown within 500 miles
A whole day on a truck. Lots of fossil fuel used, but still could be fairly fresh.

Grown within 1500 miles
Food is probably at least 3 to 5 days old. Food has come from half a continent away.

Grown within 3000 miles
Food is at least a week old and from across the continent.

Over 3000 miles
Food is probably 1 to 2 weeks old, or lots of fossil fuel was used to fly it somewhere. Food may have come from across a continent or the sea.

Taking the Challenge further

While participating or once you have your percentages, discuss your experience with friends, family and/or colleagues. Visit The New Farm Talk section and particpate in a General Discussion/Anything Goes forum on the Challenge. Or, if you'd like to discuss local food topics as well as this Challenge with the Local Food Cafe group, subscribe to their e-mail list at LocalFoodCafe-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Following are some aspects of local -vs- non-local food to think about while taking the Challenge. Let these questions lead you to discover even more about your local food system and spark even broader discussions with other particpants or non-particpants.

1. How much of your food is grown within walking distance (3 miles or less)?

2. Are there any food groups central to your diet that come from far away?

3. If you altered your shopping to get as much local as possible, how did this affect what you ate or the cost? Did you like the taste of any of the items more or less than usual?

4. What items from more than 3 miles away could be grown within the 3 miles? 50 miles?

5. Did you discover any local fresh or prepared foods or markets that you hadn't tried before?

6. How much of your food did you eat fresh/raw (without cooking)? (Note: For the sake of your intestines, don't try to change a mostly-cooked diet to an all-raw diet at one time.)

7. If you have a nutrition program, did the local foods meet your overall nutritional needs?

Finally, start increasing the amount of local food you eat on a regular basis and support others who do the same. Some ways you might encourage local food in your area: grow a garden at home; particpate in a community garden; frequent Farmers' Markets; join a CSA; patronize restaurants that grow gardens; eat wildfoods; practice biointensive gardening, permaculture and edible landscaping; buy from small local farms; learn about SlowFood; use root cellars and home preserving; purchase local or regional cookbooks.