A few years ago, one of my girlfriends told me about her summer goal: to eat completely local for one week (she defined "eating local" as consuming food grown within 100 km of her home). Having eaten almost completely local for one week (with the exception of grain products and eating out), she decided to continue her challenge throughout most of the summer. Although it took quite a bit of planning on her part to find recipes that featured seasonal produce, she said that by the end of it, she became more organized, more creative, and felt better about her decisions.
Although I never embraced a "eat completely local" diet, I was inspired by her dedication, and have since been striving to eat, and live, as locally as possible. I believe that food sustainability is a large part of being socially responsible. The biggest challenge I’ve found, however, has been accessibility; finding local food, and other local products, all in one place, isn’t always easy. Even produce that could be and is frequently grown in BC sometimes travels great distances to get to us, being imported from other countries and continents. Preserves, pickled products, and baked goods, too, are also frequently imported from other parts of the world, and are usually cheaper than locally made products. Eating locally requires effort, actively choosing foods that are sometimes harder to find, and more expensive.
Despite these challenges, there are still many benefits for why one should try to eat more local, and they mostly boil down to one major one: sustainability. As we become more concerned about rampant environmental damage, eating food that travels as little as possible to get to us becomes part of the lifestyle changes we can make. As the average meal travels 2,400 km to get to our plates (Source: Get Local BC) a lot of resources get tied up in transportation. From an emissions standpoint, it seems wasteful to transport food long distances, especially if that food could have been locally sourced. Moreover, on a journey that long, food can be damaged and deteriorate, resulting in additional food waste. In fact, about 10,000 tonnes of food is wasted annually in Metro Vancouver! Food waste is incredibly problematic; as resources become more and more scarce, more people go hungry. It is estimated that by 2050, global food production will have to rise by 70% as Earth will hold approximately 9 billion people. In this context, cutting down the distance between us and our food can constitute part of a greater shift to being more sustainable, and therefore, socially responsible. Even when we can’t eat entirely local, substituting small items, such as some produce, still makes a considerable difference.
What are you doing this Thursday? Check out SFU Market Day at the Queen Elizabeth Plaza as part of the Downtown Vancouver Farmer’s Market between 11am-3pm. From 12:30 to 1:30, take in a special edition of City Conversations on local food, urban agriculture, and food security. Come early for giant board games, and stay after for a dance performance from SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Plus, the first 50 people to show their SFU identification at the info tent will receive $5 in market money. Enjoy the ambience, taste some really fresh food, and appreciate what our local farmers do for you and your health.