I joined a fitness boot camp that started this past Monday. It is really kicking my butt, but it is giving me the needed discipline that I don't have on my own. Sure, not showing up would mean wasting my money, but I think the most important thing about the class is that I am reporting to a group. I feel a sense of responsibility and a great ability to stick to my goals.
I didn't even think of the parallels between this and the Eat Local Challenge until I read cookiecrumb's comment in this post referring to the Eat Local Challenge as a sort of boot camp. Those of us who have agreed to take the challenge starting on Monday and lasting through all of May are accountable to the over 700 other people taking the challenge along with us.
Why have so many people agreed to try and eat food that is derived close to their homes? There are as many reasons as there are participants, but most of us do it to become more aware of where our food is actually coming from. The average food on the dinner plate of Americans has travelled 1500 miles. Chad Heeter wrote an article last month entitled "The Oil in your Oatmeal" that was published in the Chronicle. It outlines the amount of fossil fuel it takes to produce, package and ship a typical breakfast.
So we are dedicating the month of May to try and eat food that is grown within our foodshed, or as locally as possible. For some, that will be within a 100-mile radius. For others, it will be their state or their region. Some of us will take the challenge very literally and try to eat as many things as possible within our area and try to cut out all that is not local. Others of us will keep coffee and bread and other items that are very difficult to source. Some of us will aim for eating one meal a week that is all local, while others of us will try for every meal.
In my boot camp, people are in the class for very different reasons. Some are trying to get their running times down. Some are trying to lose weight for their wedding, and some like me are just trying to show up. Every day that I show up at the camp is a victory in my mind. Every day that I focus and pay attention and push my body as far as I can go is a boon. Just like the boot camp, all of us must set very personal challenges for the Eat Local Challenge and do what we can.
I can promise you that if you decide to take the challenge that your eyes will be opened. Even if you don't meet all your goals, you will have changed the way that you think about your food. And every time you are able to ask a supermarket manager or butcher where your food is from, you will be reminding that person that we care to know where we are getting our nourishment from.
I have seen Michael Pollan speak several times in the past few weeks, and a couple of times audience members have asked him if there is any hope. Big industrial food has taken over much of our society, and the food choices we have seem put upon us and hopeless. His response has been great. Compared to big issues -- the war in Iraq, terrorism, immigration, slave labor -- Pollan believes that food is one with the most hope. Of course, there are many policy changes that would help change the food industry, but eating is something that each of us does every day, usually three times a day. Each and every time we choose to put something into our mouths, we are voting for that food and that producer and that grower. We can, in small ways many times a day, make a difference.
Would you like more information on why eating local food is important? Begin with this post called "10 Reasons to Eat Local."
Interested in writing about your Eat Local Challenge experience? Send me your blog url and I will add you to a list of over 40 bloggers writing about their challenges around the country.