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Columnist finishes challenge, changes her attitude, diet

Janie Boschma

One hundred miles is a lot bigger than you think. Or at least bigger than what I thought it was.

Over the past month, I have eaten mostly local food. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be almost impossible. By the end, my attempts of making local grilled cheese sandwiches has turned into sophisticated meals of pork chops with cider reductions.

The Valley’s Local Challenge is more than just eating local. Supporters and participants tell me it’s about knowing where your food comes from. While I agree that is one part, I think it even goes further than that.

Knowing exactly where my food comes from does make eating a more personal experience, and more enjoyable. Many of the stores and vendors I visit remember me. Some ask how the challenge is going. If I ask where something is from, they can tell me the farm. If something is sold out, they can tell me when it will be back in stock. I’ve watched vendors come in and check their stock, offering to make more of whatever is low. It’s far from the typical type of grocery shopping.

Besides the personal experience, eating local supports local agriculture and businesses. This month gave me the opportunity to explore markets and farms I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I wouldn’t be drinking milk that comes from a glass bottle, or eating bread that contains no preservatives and must be refrigerated. Supporting local businesses and farmers means there are less in-between people. When I buy something from the farmers market, I am buying directly from the grower, the person who planted the seed, sowed the land, the whole deal. When I buy from local co-ops, they buy from the farmers. Very little, if any of the food I consumed this month, came from an area other than the Midwest.

The final factor in the Eat Local Challenge is slowing down. Eating locally forced me to manage my time, and find time to cook a meal rather than run to fast-food drive-thru. It’s really hard to make a local meal in five minutes. But taking 15 minutes to chop some vegetables, toss a salad is much more satisfying (and healthier) than a Big Mac with cheese.

While I know I will go back to some old habits, some of the Local Challenge will stay in my diet. A few canned goods will be back, along with some of my favorite packaged snacks. But the majority of my diet will remain local, including breads, dairy, meats and produce (as long as they are in season).

The Valley’s Eat Local Challenge impacted my diet. For those of you who followed my progress but didn’t participate yourselves, there’s always next year.

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