What is ‘Eat Local July’? The journey so far…
By Simone Bensdorp
‘Eat Local July’ is a challenge I have set myself to eat only locally grown/produced food for the month of July. Wherever you are in the world you’re welcome to join in, whether it’s for a meal, a day, a week or the whole month. It’s a time to celebrate our local food producers, discover what grows seasonally in our bioregion, and learn what foods we can (or can’t!) live without.
The seed for this idea was planted at the last Food Talks dinner, a shared meal and conversation focused on ethical eating. After leaving with a full belly and heart from nourishing food and connection, I continued to think about our discussion over the next few days. One recurring phrase stood out for me that I’d heard many times during our conversation: “I would eat more local food but I couldn’t give up *insert delicious food here*”. I began to wonder, how much of this was in our minds? Would it really be as hard as we thought to change our diets? I know how hard it can be to change habits, so I had to find a way to hold myself accountable. That’s when the idea of a month long challenge came to me: I could invite friends to join me and share my experiences online, which would hopefully keep me motivated and inspire others. Thus ‘Eat Local July’ was born.
Although July is still a few weeks away, I’m taking this time to prepare. This involves eating all the imported food in my pantry and figuring out where to source the foods I want to eat in July. I’m lucky to have had some help with this – The Eat Local July facebook page has almost 200 followers, who have helped me brainstorm all the local foods available in winter and where to source them from. I’m blown away by all the support and interest so far! There’s a shared google doc here if you want to have a look or add to it.
During this process I’ve discovered something interesting – I’ve stopped thinking about what foods I’ll have to give up, and started thinking about the abundance of delicious, healthy, local foods I’ll be eating instead. This is a real perspective shift for me, to think about what I’m gaining instead of what I’m missing out on. I’m feeling grateful that I live in a region where so much food is grown, including most grains, bountiful fresh vegetables, gourmet mushrooms, all of the dairy products (including sheep, cow, goat and buffalo cheese!), nuts, olives, and although I don’t eat meat there’s plenty of that too. My research has led to investigate whether lentils are grown here (they are), if any plants containing caffeine grow in our climate (they don’t), and how to make salt from sea water (there’s a pot of salt water evaporating over my fire right now).
Making your own salt might seem like a step too far for some people, and I’m not suggesting that we all need to! But perhaps there are other changes you can make that are easier than you think. The reason I’m doing this publicly is to bring awareness to the local food resources we have and to start more conversations about what we’re eating. I hope to prove to myself and others that it’s possible to eat a delicious and varied diet based on local foods – even if it means giving up chocolate for a month!