Thursday, August 2, 2007

100 Mile Diet in August

Our county's new local food logo
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a member of the Northwest Illinois Local Foods Task Force. Our mission is to spread the word about eating locally, as well as to build both the supply and the demand for local foods. Here is an exerpt of our official mission statement explaining why we promote local eating.
Reasons to Eat Local
· Enjoy exceptional taste - Local food is fresher and locally grown varieties tend to be bred for taste and freshness, rather than shipping and shelf life.
· Strengthen the economy - Buying local keeps dollars circulating in the community.
· Support local farms - Local food is often sold directly by the farmer, allowing the grower to keep more of the profit.
· Encourage health and safety - Increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and wholesome dairy products is good for your health. Plus, knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown allows you to support a safe food supply.
· Protect the environment - Less reliance on shipping foods long distances reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing material. It also helps make farmland more profitable and sustainable.

We debated whether to also cite new evidence that eating locally-grown food increases vitamin and mineral intake because fresh food has lost less of its nutrients. The members as a whole felt that this might not have enough evidence to support it yet, so we stuck with the really strong reasons listed above.

Obviously, I make some personal compromises when I "stand behind" a document that claims that increasing intake of "wholesome" dairy products is good for your health.

I also note that our last meeting was held in a local ice cream parlor that serves local beef, cheese, and ice cream. We all gave a round of applause to the manager, who explained that they don't make as much money serving local potato chips as they would if they bought nonlocal French fries, but they are committed to supporting local producers and their customers approve. Then everyone but me happily chowed down on cheeseburgers, potato chips, and large scoops of ice cream. Sigh.

In the final analysis, I feel that the great work that this Task Force is doing outweighs their promotion of local meat and milk. Margaret Larson, the Unit Leader for the County Extension, has been a real champion of local foods in the community, and works hard to use local foods in as many events with Extension's name on it as she can. As they are located on a community college campus, sometimes foodservice contracts get in the way. She was instrumental in getting an ALL-LOCAL farmer's market started (the one I sell at) and in helping our little community garden get the grants and volunteer Master Gardeners we needed to survive and thrive. She is amazing and when she asked me to participate on the Task Force, how could I say no?

Let's face it, one of the main reasons I am so committed to the Task Force is that I secretly hope to at least somewhat balance out the meat and milk lobby. Believe it or not, we have lots of local fruit and vegetables. LOL!

One of the first steps the Task Force took was to hire a local media firm to create a logo. This logo was unveiled in a promotional event at the annual Ag Breakfast, a well-attended affair that serves local agricultural products (again, primarily meat, eggs, and cheese) from this county. The purpose of the logo is to encourage local businesses such as restaurants to use local ingredients in their dishes. Grocery stores, farmer's markets, roadside produce stands, etc. would also want to use the label. Consumers can look for the logo and use this to better vote with their dollar.

We are also planning a Local Foods Harvest event at Freeport's new Visitor Center, and are bringing several guest speakers with expertise in connecting local producers to restaurants, grocery stores, and foodservice professionals. We have also sponsored some fun events, such as a cooking demonstration at the Farmer's Market.

Finally, the most exciting event the Task Force is undertaking is that during the month of August, several members, including me, have taken the challenge to follow the Hundred Mile Diet, and write about it in a blog, as well as in articles for our local media. We hope to lay groundwork for a more ambitious promotion of eating locally in the future. One of the ideas kicking around in MY head is getting the general public to pledge to follow the Hundred Mile Diet for a certain amount of time next summer and then have a Local Foods Banquet for the participants. This would be a great opportunity for consumers to network with local farmers and food purveyors. Imagine the possibilities!


Anonymous said...

Marjorie, that all sounds great. Is there any way to learn about that in our communities? I am near the University of Florida and used to be a part of their Master Gardener program, but never heard of anything like that. You go girl!


Made it through Day 1 on 80-10-10 and was almost on track. I used the nutridiary. I had a cup of coffee this morning, with creamer, and it threw off my whole day as, far as numbers go. Definitely no coffee tomorrow!

Greenmama said...

Hi Connie,

I'm cheering you on with your new 80-10-10 program! :) How did it go today without the coffee and creamer?

How cool that you are a Master Gardener! The University of Florida probably has a County Extension that sponsored your Master Gardener program. It wouldn't hurt to call and find out if they are doing anything to promote eating locally. They may have a task force similar to the one I am on. Or they may other programs.

Also, check with the vendors or market manager at your local Farmer's Market.

Finally, there are lots of links to local resources at the site.

Hope that helps.