Last September, I was approached by Jen of the Nanaimo Chapter of the 100 Mile Diet to participate in their yearly challenge – that being, to create a dish with nothing but local ingredients. Being an advocate of using local ingredients, I had no problem stepping up to the plate for this challenge. I was surprised to find out after the fact that no other restaurant she approached was willing to take up the challenge. This dumbfounds me to this day. The 100 Mile diet is not a new idea. The basic tenant of the 100 Mile diet is drawn from the macrobiotic concept of eating locally, first documented in ancient Greece by Hippocrates.
Our system of growing, processing and distributing food has changed so dramatically in the past century, that if you were to take an adult from the 1930’s, and plop them in the middle of a modern grocery store, they would have no idea what to make of most items typically stocked today. We, as a culture, have lost touch with how food is grown and prepared, and a step back to the basics is exactly what we need.
Here are a few facts:
Currently, the average distance traveled for each item of food on a Canadian’s plate is 1500 miles (that is not a typo.)
Between the fuel to get to the plate, the artificial heating and the treatments most imported foods go through, imported items use approximately 17 times more energy to produce that anything that is locally grown.
Food bought locally is usually picked within 24 hours of it sale. Imported food spends days to weeks in transport and sitting in warehouses losing valuable nutrition. Additionally, many ‘fresh’ products that are shipped long distances are coated with a wax or mineral oil.
Now I know what some of you are saying, because I’ve heard it before and I’ve seen it posted on blogs, "It’s not possible to eat locally all year round in BC due to the limited amount of agriculture produced here.” That’s complete and utter nonsense. Turn the clock back about five hundred years – the local people seemed to be able to survive only on native plants and animals without the aid of large scale agriculture or refrigeration. No one can tell me this is not possible today; not with the number of imported crops and herd animals, not with our current agricultural knowledge and not with the number of wild native foods that grow in the area. With proper planning; spring and summer canning, and storage of the autumn harvest (onions, potatoes, root vegetables and squash) a family can live very well on what is produced in this area.
The 100 mile diet, though a very big blast from the past, offers a sustainable blueprint for the future. The problem is that most of us have forgotten how, or do not want to take the time to follow this blueprint. We have become so dependent on having the local supermarkets supply our food needs and this is not a sustainable way to live. We have forgotten that strawberries are the taste of summer, and things like bananas and oranges do not grow here. The art of canning and preserving is becoming lost in this culture, and it needs to be revived. If you need any more convincing, consider this; when you process your own food, you know exactly what is in it – no MSG, no chemical preservatives and you know how long it’s been on the shelf.
The 100 mile diet is a choice for individuals that are looking for a healthy alternative, and want to do their part for environmental change. Think globally, eat locally.
For more information on the 100 mile diet, please go to www.100milediet.org and for the Nanaimo (Vancouver Island) site, visit www.100miledietnanaimo.com