Eating locally: the 100 mile diet

by Caroline Brown

I first read about The 100 Mile Diet on My Green Dream. It's an interesting idea from a couple of Canadians who decided they wanted be better global citizens and eat only local food a whole year.

This diet defines "local" as 100 miles from where you live. There's a mapping tool where you type in your postal/zip code and it shows you the borders of your 100-mile local food zone.

Here's my 100 miles. Note that my zone is about one-half ocean. That's a lot of seafood!

Here's a snippet from the "About" section of the 100-mile diet website. It's a great explanation of why eating locally is important and describes the inspiration of the diet:

When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles—call it "the SUV diet." On the first day of spring, 2005, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon chose to confront this unsettling statistic with a simple experiment. For one year, they would buy or gather their food and drink from within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

James & Alisa admit that this diet isn't for everyone. Especially at the beginning of diet, it's difficult to find local food sources, it's more expensive, and it takes a lot of time. The recommend starting out by having a 100-mile meal.

We walked into the diet cold turkey for a full year, and it was hard. For example, we live on the West Coast, so it took us seven months to find a rogue local farmer who actually grows wheat. Meanwhile, we ate an unbelievable number of potatoes. Doing the diet the hard way taught us a lot about the current food system, but it isn't for everybody. A more realistic approach is to plan a single, totally 100-mile meal with friends or family, and see where you want to go from there.

I'm not disciplined enough to do the diet, even though I'm a big fan of eating local food. I think the 100 mile meal is a great idea. Maybe once a week, we could have a 100 mile meal night.

<warning: rant ahead. ok, you've been warned.>

I really admire James & Alisa for having the fortitude to do what they did. But I wish it wasn't so difficult to live sustainably. Now, I know this sounds whiny. On a selfish level, sure I would miss eating avocados. But I could get over that.

No, this is bigger–it goes back to my biggest beef about living sustainably. What really irritates me is this: when I think of all the different things you have to do to be sustainable–eat locally, buy organically, garden sustainably, etc. etc.–I wonder, can the poorest of America's poor follow these practices? And the answer is, hell no. And that pisses me off. Sustainable living shouldn't just be a choice for the privileged.

We came a long way in the 19th & 20th centuries. Greedy Rockefellers covered the countryside with railroads; Chicago meatpackers invented refrigerated railroad cars; Clarence Birdseye discovered flash freezing by watching Inuits catch fish. We learned how to live large!

Do I sound like a Luddite? Hell, I spend all my time in front of a PC. But I have a great-aunt who's 98 years old. Her family was fairly self-sufficient. Even though they were poor, they ate well and made do. They farmed, raised cows & pigs, and produced and sold their own eggs & milk. Now, the family farm is a development of suburban homes called Turkey Creek Acres or something equally ridiculous. And because the disintegration of family farming was the death of the traditional extended family, my aunt rambles around alone in a big old house, eating frozen chicken patties and drinking Ensures.

Yay, progress! We're livin' large!

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2 Comments to “Eating locally: the 100 mile diet”

  1. Well, it’s a good idea to eat locally, but I don’t see a reason to confine this to an arbitrary 100 mile-zone. In general, I try to live(!) locally and to do so, there is much more involved than eating. But let’s go back to the 100 miles diet – I greatly prefer organic and seasonal over local, as many factors restrict the availability of food in many areas – I grow my own tomatoes, apricots, strawberry, plums, harvest some herbs, the rest I have to buy and I won’t get any coffee, any bananas, any rice etc. in a 100 mile radius. So I pick organic (and fairtrade) wherever available. It’s a different approach, I know, but it’s one I am more comfortable with.

  2. I agree with you Gernot, otherwise there will never be coffee, tea, chocolate, avocados, olive oil, curry spice, etc. for some of us. I think that the biggest value of the 100-mile diet is that it promotes eating locally and hopefully will draw some attention to the problems of unfair trade practices, the affect of trade on oil consumption, etc. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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