Localvores begin Winter Eat Local Challenge

BURLINGTON With fresh vegetable stashes quickly diminishing, the Champlain Valley Localvores are putting local foods enthusiasts to the test by kicking off their Winter Eat Local Challenge, which runs for one week from Sunday, Jan. 27 to Saturday, Feb. 2. While this challenge is relatively undaunting, through important, during the Vermont summer, eating exclusively local food, which the Localvores define as any food grown, harvested, and processed in Vermont or within 100 miles of your home, becomes increasingly difficult during the winter months if you havent frozen or canned a winters worth of food. Eating local foods is one of the simplest and most productive ways to positively impact the local economy and reduce ones carbon footprint. According to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, if every Vermonter bought 10 percent of their food from local sources, $100 million would be added to the local economy. Perhaps more importantly, a 2002 Worldwatch Institute report noted that the average food item now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles before being consumed, and, even more dramatically, the average fruit and vegetable travels between 2,500 and 4,000 miles in a refrigerated truck or plane before being eaten. The environmental impact of a centralized, industrialized food production system is destructive at best, and catastrophic at worst. However, local foods efforts still have a long way to go in becoming a national model. Renowned environmental author, climate change activist, and faculty-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bill McKibben writes in Deep Economy, his 2007 treatise of the wealth of communities and the durable future, The deepest problem that local-food efforts face is that weve gotten used to paying so little for food. It may be expensive in terms of how much oil it requires, and how much greenhouse gas it pours into the atmosphere, and how much tax subsidy it receives, and how many migrant workers it maims, and how much sewage it piles up, and how many miles of highway it requiresbut boy, when you pull your cart up to the register, its pretty cheap. Popular support for the local foods movement has swelled in Vermont in recent years. Support for the Eat Local Challenge has nearly doubled since its first running in the summer of 2006, when 140 people signed up for the challenge, to 282 for the summer 2007 challenge. Many local restaurants, such as Sugar Snap, Smokejacks, Busy Chef, Pizza on Earth, City Markey Grab-and-go, and Viva Espresso, are also catching on to the importance of eating locally and offer 100% local options with the exception of salt, pepper, leavening agents and other spices. Those interested in signing up for the Eat Local Challenge, and those interested in learning more about local foods and the Champlain Valley Localvores, can visit the Champlain Valley Localvores website, www.eatlocalvt.org

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