A Fresh Look At What We Eat

IT was the autumn of 2004 when Canadian environmentalists Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon discovered a diet that would start a mini revolution in the way we think about the food we consume.

The young couple were visiting their cabin in the wilderness of northern British Columbia when they realised they had nothing to put on the table for friends who were coming to dinner. So, they foraged for food in the surrounding area and this led to a simple, but delicious meal of fresh fish, vegetables and fruits.

This experience was their epiphany – discovering the value and goodness of local food. Moreover, on their return to Vancouver when Alisa and James discovered that a meal for an average North American travels 1,500 miles from farm to grocery store, they took up the challenge of eating only locally sourced food for a year.

It was this venture that led them to advocate the now famous 100-mile diet – a lifestyle decision of sourcing food within a 100-mile radius of where you live, and eat.

“It really did start to feel like the new normal for us,” says MacKinnon in their book, Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet.

This 100-mile challenge is also environmentally beneficial. While you’re discovering new and surprising tastes in your region, you also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint.  

 So, how do you go about it? You could start with a small, yet significant step: finding these foods at a farmer’s market near you, or grown in a ‘farmhouse’ owned by someone you know or even in your neighbour’s garden – and incorporate them into your meals little by little. This means interesting and unexpected discoveries for you, which can positively impact on your health and make you feel more connected to your environment. And, if you are so inclined and have the space, you could make your own garden and grow the type of food that you prefer. 

Tracking down these sources of ‘local’ food can be challenging, especially if you live in an urban jungle, surrounded by buildings instead of nature.

Saying no to the abundance of global food available in supermarkets can also be tough. But take it at your pace, make discoveries for yourself and start building contacts with people similarly disposed, and it will soon become an enjoyable expedition.

India is one of the top-rated culinary nations in the world and has traditionally focused on local produce. As the executive chef of ITC Maurya Manisha Bhasin says: “In India, eating fresh, seasonal and local produce is imbibed in us culturally.”

About a decade ago, an initiative by a few hotels to grow ingredients that were once imported began and now the movement for ‘sustainable dining’ has taken root, not only in luxury hotels but also in top restaurants. Former environmental analyst Gaytri Bhatia, for instance, supplies a number of hotels and eateries in Mumbai with fresh produce from her Vrindavan Farm in Palghar two hours away – well within the 100-mile radius.

She explains: “We specialise in seasonal, heirloom and indigenous. For instance, the tribes here depended on the moringa leaf more than spinach as it is way more nutritious and is endemic to the area. We have brought it to the fine dining table.”

Gaytri is one among many others in India building the ecosystem for fresh produce from farm to table. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, explains what lies at the heart of sustainable local procurement is the goal to establish healthy communities and sustainable regional agricultural economies”.

And what can be bad about that?

– Compiled by Tarshaa Krishnaraj

Our partner NGO Universal Versatile Society, work closely with the agrarian population to promote sustainable development and raise awareness about climate change. If you’d like to support them, please click here.

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