Pledge to eat local

Sound Consumer | November 2009

by Goldie Caughlan, PCC Nutrition Education Manager

(November 2009) — Accept the challenge! This Thanksgiving, Puget Sound Fresh, a program of King County and the local nonprofit, Cascade Harvest Coalition, are asking us to pledge to “eat at least one locally produced food.”

It’s fun and easy ­— and a wonderful way to give thanks for the delicious bounty of our region.

Choosing just one local item makes it easy to bring everyone into the “eat local” tent. But I’ve got a hunch that many of you already are intent on serving more than one local food, right?

We think it’s a terrific idea, too. After all, as your year-round natural and organic foods market, PCC pledges that we’re committed to supporting this region’s sustainable and organic family farmers and ranchers, and the regional processors who support them — not only on Thanksgiving, but on the other 364 days, too — year in, year out.

Eating local has many advantages. In general, the closer the providers, the greater the variety of fresh produce and the more diverse the colors, shapes and sizes, including unusual heirlooms.

Many experienced shoppers believe local, seasonal foods usually taste fresher (assuming they’re properly stored until sale). Knowing the grower improves accountability and traceability and possibly, maybe, even food safety.

But perhaps the greatest reason to buy local is that it helps keep local farmers producing on regional farmland, enhancing greater local food security. Research done by Sustainable Seattle and others has found that locally directed spending by consumers in our region more than doubles the number of dollars circulating among local businesses.

This means that a shift of 20 percent of our collective food dollars into local purchases would result in nearly a half-billion-dollar increase in annual income for King County alone — and twice that in Central Puget Sound (King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties). (See June 2008, “Going to the source,” Sound Consumer archives online.)

Join the pledge

Be sure to sign the online pledge by November 21. You’ll have a chance to win something in a drawing — a local heritage turkey, a PCC Cooks class, or one of several other nifty prizes.

Certainly, receiving a prize would be nice and fun but you’ll also find it fascinating to discover immediately on screen the calculation of how your action to choose even one local item (assumed to be shared with five other diners) may reduce carbon dioxide, a planet-warming greenhouse gas.

That’s primarily from the effect of choosing a local food, thus eliminating the emissions that are a corollary of transporting foods long distances. The background studies, working assumptions and methods used for the calculation are accessible with just a quick “click.”

Seeing our carbon “food-print” reduced is an instant affirmation — a deserving pat on the back. It’s also a timely reminder of what we may too easily forget: the power of one — one person, one act, one delicious, seasonal food. Repeat!

After all, each of us can be a positive change agent just by choosing what we eat for each meal. It adds up when we make it a personal commitment and priority to know where, from whom, and in what manner our food is grown and processed — and then put our food dollars to use regularly in ways we judge to serve the best interest of our self, our community and, frankly, our planet.

The Eat Local for Thanksgiving Web site has excellent articles and facts about the importance of supporting local and regional food producers. (No local farms, no local foods.)

If you have family or friends who pooh-pooh your concerns and efforts, steer them to the Web site for a quick and very persuasive read and nudge them to take the pledge. Who knows? They just might be ready for delicious local foods (and a chance to win something)!

Lest I forget to mention it, there also are excellent seasonal recipes on the site, including some that local celebrity chef, Tom Douglas, makes for Thanksgiving. Mmmm!

Now, a not-so-local but very relevant topic for the messages it sends is the organic White House garden, which has received considerable media attention already. Seeing our First Lady, Michelle Obama, garden alongside elementary students is important and inspiring. You can read updates and even view a short eight-minute video by going to the official White House blog at whitehouse.gov.

There has been less publicity about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic demonstration gardens. Dubbed “The People’s Garden,” the first one broke ground on Lincoln’s birthday and has proved very popular.

Go to usda.gov/peoplesgarden for photos and a video, plus a list of crops planted and pounds of produce donated to several charities. Articles discuss plans for more gardens and describe an innovative roof garden already established.

The USDA is asking all agency facilities to develop demonstration gardens. All are in the process of becoming certified organic.

If you’re inclined, you can follow all this on Twitter (twitter.com/peoplesgarden) or on Facebook.

To sign the pledge, go to eatlocalforthanksgiving.org.

More about: holidays, local food, Washington

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