The 100-Mile Meal Challenge.
An awesome book came out a few years ago, written by a couple who lived just a short boat ride away from me.
They were environmental enthusiasts and foodies, and also two very cool people who wanted to leave less of an impact on our beautiful earth.
They set out to do something they called the “100-mile diet.” This meant that for one year they would only consume foods that came from within 100 miles of their home. The book described their journey and how their lives evolved because of it.
I was inspired.
I decided that for one delicious meal I would give myself and my family our own “100-mile diet” challenge and source every single ingredient this same way. I, too, wanted to be gentler on my planet, and I was curious to have a conversation about the food I was eating in hopes of more mindfully digesting the connection between consumption, sustainability and community.
To begin my 100-mile meal, I went down to the local Saturday farmers’ market in late September.
As I strolled to the market, I thought about the impact of globalization on our food consumption and security, because let’s be honest, it’s easy to pop into the grocery store and buy whatever we want when we want it, but this choice has some negative ripple effects.
Farmers’ markets have been a regular stop for me throughout my adult life. While the prices are higher than at the grocery store, the benefits to buying locally run way deeper than nutrition.
I once brought a friend with me who couldn’t get over the fact that I spent eight dollars on one squash—while later that evening I watched him spend 70 dollars on his non-local dinner and drinks…
Anyways, back to the story.
For my 100-mile meal, I purchased a beef roast, a kabocha squash, garlic, onions, an organic salad mix, zucchini, Japanese turnip and red and yellow peppers.
Several of the farmers at the market are acquaintances now, so we chatted while I bought their goods and I listened as they describe how hard and lovingly they worked to grow them. I understood how my purchase directly supported their livelihoods, which is a different feeling than promoting massive grocery store chains.
There I saw the connection of land to food and livelihood, and I felt a web of potential community building.
Small-scale farmers are able to feed and nourish their entire families with their own nutritious bounty, no matter what is going on in our economy. Now that is food security. On the island where I live, we only have three days’ worth of food stores to live off of if our outside sources are cut off, so our local farmers are a precious commodity.
When I got home, I prepared my local beef by stuffing it with garlic and placing it in a roasting pan with sliced onions. I made a salad with the rest of the vegetables, sprinkled local sea-salt on it and later tossed it in a bit of the jus from the roast. I knew not to worry about the lack of spices, as freshness and quality lend plenty of flavor.
As we ate this 100-mile meal, my mother and I talked about what we tasted: the red peppers were pungent, the turnip was aromatic, the beef was rich and the lettuce was moist. Besides that, we spoke about the farmers we both knew, how they were doing and what eating local food grown by our community feels like.
When I tallied up the miles of each ingredient for our meal, it worked out to 122—not bad when we consider that just one tomato from Mexico travels over 1,000 miles to get to our grocery store (now that’s a carbon footprint!).
One of my horticultural friends once said to me, “The most revolutionary thing you can do, Sarah, is to buy locally-grown food.” I didn’t entirely understand what she meant then, but I did think about it while participating in my 100-mile meal challenge, and I’ve tried to dissect it.
When we make the choice to purchase locally, we step out of the mass, globalized food industry. We take our money and energy and we put it directly back into our community instead.
As we choose to keep our resources close to home, we foster deeper relationships with each other and our environment. We make a difference to our planet, our community and local economy by the consumer choices we make.
Are we up for it, this opportunity to make positive change?
If the answer is yes, why not try your own 100-mile meal challenge and see what it brings—it may make you feel so good you won’t want to shop at a grocery store ever again!
Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: @ecofolks on Instagram
Editor: Toby Israel