Eating locally and the ‘100-Mile Diet’

Eating only local foods takes some getting used to, but the rewards are plenty.

Credit: Michael Robertson

Farmers market are a great source for local produce.

Eating locally can save the world but can kill your international cuisine


One of the things I like about receiving my weekly grocery delivery from Spud! is that I don’t have to lug heavy milk bottles up from the supermarket. The other thing I like is the section on my invoice that tells me how far, on average, my items have travelled, and how much less that is than the average for a supermarket. (What it doesn’t say, but is implied, is how wonderful I am and that I am single-handedly saving the world.)


For a larger-scale perspective, provides a snapshot of how much milk, beef or salmon Canada imports (that’s right, we import salmon), how far it travels on average and how many grams of greenhouse gas emissions are saved by buying locally. As well as informative articles, the Vancouver-based site also has a directory and links for buying locally.

100-mile diet
The book that launched 1,000 diets


The ‘100-Mile Diet’ phenomenon

I feel fairly confident that most people who think about food and sustainability are aware of the 100-Mile Diet. The year-long local food experiment of Vancouverites Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon has become a global phenomenon.


While many of us would love to achieve a 100-mile diet, most of us leave it as an ideal to work toward rather than one we work to achieve. Recently, I came across a slight re-jinking of the definition. Under the new definition, all protein and produce must come from within 100 miles. This allows people to source less available items, such as rice, flour and spices from further afield. Health wise, more than ecologically, this makes a lot of sense. It means that the “fresh” foods, i.e. those that will perish rapidly, are travelling less.



The negative side of eating locally and the negative side’s positive side

One of the tricky things about adjusting to eating local foods is that it becomes more difficult to some make international dishes without the mangoes, avocadoes or coconuts. It also takes a while to become re-accustomed to the rhythm of the seasons; to fully comprehend that you can’t eat peaches in winter (unless you take the time to preserve some in summer).


The positive side of making this shift is that the seasons begin to take on greater meaning. Fall becomes more than “the season between Ultimate and snowboarding.” Despite losing summer, and all that implies, you start to look forward to mushrooms and brussel-sprouts pan-fried with a little garlic and a lotta butter.


This seasonal food chart [PDF] is very useful for priming your taste buds for each season (it also works well as a shopping list).


What are your obstacles and epiphanies from eating locally?