Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: An Eating Local Challenge

A locavore I’m not. I like the idea but I feel too constrained by time and a limited pocketbook to adhere to the whenever possible part. I’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I know the decision she and her family made — living for a year entirely on food grown locally by them or their neighbors — is beyond my reach. My home is in the city, my yard postage stamp-sized and heavily shaded. I don’t live where it is warm year-round, and I have a coffee habit.

But I do aspire to the lifestyle. I do make a conscious effort to buy as much as I can afford from local sources. I may not buy my milk at CitySeed, but at the supermarket I will pick  up The Farmer’s Cow, milk produced and marketed by Connecticut family-owned dairy farms. At the chains in my state, eggs, cheese, and some produce from New England and New York state are also readily available, and local bread is totally easy to find. 

I’d always thought I was doing pretty well at “buying local” — that is until the Elm City Market sent out a survey. The directors and managers of the new co-op market (scheduled to open late this Summer) are beginning to select products with which to stock the shelves. 

The survey asked each member to name 5 local (or regional) grocery items he or she would like to see on the the shelves. Not dairy. Not bread. Not produce. Those questions will come later. The survey was seeking 5 local, non-perishable items — groceries.

This task was not easy. I finally came up with a list of 6 items. I can’t swear that all the ingredients are local: I know that cacao and vanilla beans are not. I also can not swear that all the products are manufactured in the region, but all the companies ARE located in New England.

Here’s my list and the distance from the company address to my home:
  1. Swords Into Plowshares Honey (New Haven, CT, less than one mile)
  2. Newman’s Own Salad Dressing and Pasta Sauce (Westport, CT, 31 miles) I have to say a few words about Newman’s Own. I had always had a thing for Paul (for the few among you who may not know, an actor with gorgeous blue eyes), and when he launched his oil and vinegar salad dressing, I had to give it a try. Little did I know that my then young son would get hooked on it. I’ve lost track of the number of bottles I’ve purchased over the years. A statement Paul Newman made early on is still on my fridge: “It started as a joke and got out of control.” The company took off, launching product after product, and donating all profits after taxes to charity. As of November, 2010, Newman’s Own had made charitable contributions of over $300 million! You can download coupons for Newman’s Own products here. Paul’s daughter Nell Launched Newman’s Own Organics  (now a separate company) in 1993.
  3. Berkshire Bark (Sheffield, MA, 79.8 miles) 
  4. Baldwin’s Vanilla Extract (West Stockbridge, MA, 119.5 miles)
  5. Nejames Lavasch Crisp Flatbread (Venus Wafers, Hingham, MA, 122 miles)
  6. King Arthur Flour (Norwich, VT, 188.3 miles)
While only one of the six companies is around the corner, most are not too far outside the 100 mile radius that some locavores like to use. And every one of them is a lot closer than the estimated 1,838 miles the typical carrot travels to get to an American plate. 

Check out this link as well as this one for information on the miles food travels and its consequences, and for ideas on eating sustainably.

If you are able to come up with some local favorites, please let me know what they are and how close the source is to your home. Remember, for this time, nonperishable items only. I look forward to posting your lists on this blog.

Have a good week, and please come back soon.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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