Road Rules for the Eat Local Challenge

Due to riotous levels of enthusiasm, I am thrilled to announce the first annual Mighty Appetite Eat Local Challenge! Beginning Saturday, July 19, MA readers across the country will embark on a week-long eating adventure that includes food grown or raised within 100 miles of where they live.

For this inaugural adventure, I challenge you to incorporate 10 food items from your local food shed over the course of the week. If you're having trouble figuring out exactly how far away 100 miles is from your hometown, have a look at this handy mapping tool put together by the 100-Mile Diet folks.

If you've already e-mailed me, you're now a part of the ELC Honor Roll, which will be updated until July 14. During the week of July 14, I'll select five readers from different parts of the country who are interested in chronicling their ELC adventures. (For those getting first whiff of the ELC, send me an e-mail to address above; in the subject line, type "ELC"; in body of your note, include city, state and size of household.)

Even though the ELC is still a few weeks away, it's a good idea to take stock of both your pantry and your eating habits now. Consider jotting down a typical week in the life of your kitchen -- the food and drink that makes its way into your home and onto your table -- and put a little star next to items that qualify as local. Next, scan the list for items that you generally don't buy from a local source but could if you made the effort or got creative -- and make some other kind of notation. Finally, note the items that are not local in the slightest and will remain part of your diet no matter what -- these are your exceptions -- things like coffee, chocolate, oil and salt.

With your pantry dissected and analyzed, now you can ask yourself how difficult (or easy) it will be to incorporate 10 100-mile items into your diet for a full week. Over the next week, take some time to think about what's feasible -- and what isn't -- so that by July 19, you'll be ready for ELC action.

If, after doing this preliminary exercise, you discover that you're already doing the 10 100-mile thing, then I challenge you to raise the bar and go for 20 items! It's all about pushing yourself just a little bit and taking note of where your weekly food intake comes from.

I've received numerous questions about where exactly one can buy local food other than a farmer's market. Every local food shed will be different, but the possibilities include: roadside stands, pick-your-own farms, farm stores, food co-ops, community gardens, and to a lesser degree in larger metropolitan areas, supermarkets stocking local goods.

But the key, no matter where you shop, is to ask where the food is grown or raised. Assume nothing, and you'll be amazed by what you learn.

If you're curious to give the ELC a whirl but still have questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments area. And if you've got suggestions for ELC guidelines, share those too.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 7, 2008; 10:46 AM ET Eat Local Challenge
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Kim - A question: Does home-grown food count? Your own garden, eggs, or milk from the goats in my barn?

Thanks, Linda

Posted by: lsgc | July 7, 2008 2:38 PM

Linda: But of course! You can't get much more local than your own barn, darlin'. Giddy up!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 7, 2008 2:55 PM

I tried to find your article on Culinate but couldn't. Do you use a different name there? I enjoy your blog and chat so wanted more!
newton mom

Posted by: Newton Mom | July 7, 2008 3:09 PM

Newton Mom: go here:

thanks for asking.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 7, 2008 3:16 PM

Kim, I would love to take part in this but I have a Giant directly across the street from our condo. So I'll do my part by walking to my market instead of driving and adding to Arlington's traffic woes. But I'm with ya in spirit! (and I do buy local produce when I see it...)

BTW, I saw the link to your meatloaf blog entry and have one in the oven as I type. In 10 years together, I've never made meatloaf for my partner 'cause it's just not one of my favorites. BUT, I mostly don't like it because of the breadcrumbs!!! Needless to say, based on your recipe and all of the comments, I believe I have a version in the oven that even I will enjoy.

What I love most about your recipes is the ease in which I can modify! Blog comments always trigger ideas, as I'm not really capable of following a recipe verbatim. Changing things is half the fun!

Posted by: GAFF | July 7, 2008 5:38 PM

While going through my pantry, I noticed that some things had locations listed but it really didn't tell me how local things were. For instance, McCormick spices and herbs have Maryland listed on the label. But I've been through that part of the state and I don't recall vast feilds of oregano! Does the label refer to headquarters, or where it was packaged, or what? It's hard to tell where my food comes from.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | July 8, 2008 9:26 AM

An interesting article appeared in the Sunday paper in Milwaukee. The paper regularly features a "neighborhood of the week." This one had a sidebar on eating locally.

About eating locally:

About the neighborhood:

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2008 11:39 AM

Hi Kim,

Will some credit be given to products made/manufactured within that 100-miles? There are several local products available to me, but I'm sure that the raw materials are imported. Just wondering if items like this would count. Thanks!

Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | July 10, 2008 9:48 AM

DC Cubefarm,

I've noticed that too, that many things that I had in my pantry had a "Landover, MD" notation on them. I am willing to bet that this is the point of distribution for a plethora of products. For example, our local supermarket has an organic brand that comes through Landover and is so noted on the package. However, the package also carries a secondary "Product of" listing and that is how I discovered that the organic spinach distributed through the Landover, MD facility was actually a product of China.

If you are really interested, you might try an internet search for McCormick to find contact information, and then try calling someone within the company to ask. Never hurts.

Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | July 11, 2008 8:34 AM

Sorry about delayed response. I'm with Centre -- in all likelihood the "Landover" label is referring to point of distribution and not to point of origin.
Centre: You've got to decide if foods manufactured within 100 miles counts or not. Does a bag of pretzels made in your hometown count as local if the flour is coming from Canada and the salt coming yet another country? Personally, I'd say no, but use your own yard stick for this one. It's gotta feel feasible and manageable for this first effort.

P.S. We now have 38 households signed up for the challenge! Monday is the last day to sign up to be on the ELC Honor Roll.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 11, 2008 8:42 AM

Decided to take the local challenge for a trial run and make some mostly-local pizza tonight. Had a good supply of local veggies but wanted some local cheese. I was thrilled to find a newish store that specializes in local food, Green Earth Goods in Clarksburg (I-270, exit 18). They even asked if I was going to participate in the local food challenge! I got the local mozarella and I also have some local sausage to augment the pizza. And some local goat cheese, just because. Was going to buy some local chicken but had to reign myself in.

Posted by: Pam | July 11, 2008 5:45 PM

My husband and I have been trying to make this change and reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" pushed us over the edge. I happy to join the challenge to reinforce this personal goal and I love another excuse to go to the farmer's market.
I just saw Cherokee Purple tomatoes in our market today for the first time-- they are the greatest tomatoes to eat "straight!"

Posted by: jennifer | July 12, 2008 10:25 PM

I just finished "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" too! So while we already eat our veggies local, we are striving to do the same with our fruit and other items. we'll be participating in the Eat Local challenge in spirit this time. so bye-bye bananas. best part is i've been inspired to start making my own cheese.
Kim-how about a blog item on that? at-home cheesemaking for dummies?

Posted by: Rebeccah | July 14, 2008 5:38 PM

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