Sunday, July 31, 2005

Local Food Challenge

Today's shopping list had me doing a lot more homework and planning than usual. For the month of August, I will be doing as much as I can to eat locally - that is, foods that are available within 100 miles of my home. I have a small family of four and a rather limited budget, so we won't be eating entirely locally. My big goal for this month is to be aware of where my food comes from and increase the amount we purchase locally. I make almost every meal my family eats, so any change in where our food comes from will be a large one, percentage wise. Southern California has such a bounty of farmland and agriculture of all kinds, surely this should be easy, right?

Not so. Since I shop once a week, on Sunday, I started a day early. I went to my usual round of stores this morning: Ralphs for coupon savings (lots of non-food purchases here), Trader Joe's for hormone free and organic dairy, eggs, frozen goods, breads, and nuts, and our local Asian market for produce of all sorts. Started really looking at the produce when I began at Ralph's. Just finding fruit grown in California was difficult. No apples from this state at all. Bananas, of course, were grown outside the U.S., which I expected. Didn't buy any produce here, but trying to find anything grown in this huge, fertile state was more of a challenge than I expected. Trader Joe's had more of a selection of California grown produce, though there's no way to tell where in CA any of it was grown. All of the lovely dairy I usually buy? "Distributed and sold" in Monrovia, CA, which is 17 miles away. That doesn't tell me much at all. Still trying to get an answer on where the dairy actually comes from originally. In the meantime, I visited a nearby Alta Dena drive through location and bought milk, butter, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. Next, to locate a better farmer's market than the one we have locally (a few stalls of produce, kettle corn, and soap and that's it here) and work on getting more locally grown produce.

It's a small start, but it is a start. I love a challenge, and trying to buy locally while staying within what we can afford will certainly be that. It's something I can do for my community and for my family. Like the sound of that.