Eating Local for Urban Families. Gluten-free and Dairy-free, too!

Tuesday, October 23

How Do You Get Your Food?

Last night I told Aaron we're in a new eat local challenge and explained the rules, the main ones being we do one 95% local meal per week. We kind of chuckled because this isn't much of a challenge for us. This is how we've been eating for a year.

Then today Alisa and JB from from 100 Mile Diet fame had a blog post about getting to the sources of local food. I've heard from lots of readers about how they would love to eat locally but they just don't have farmers markets nearby, don't have access to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and the supermarkets don't display place-of-origin labeling (which may change sometime next year, at least to display country-of-origin).

The transportation piece of eating locally is something I've been thinking about a lot as I make changes in how I get around. Yesterday I took the girls on a bus-riding adventure to the co-op, something we've been doing a few times a month. This was a two-hour trip that normally would have taken about 45 - 60 minutes by car (I'm including the shopping time in there, too). But it was a glorious sunny day, unusually warm, and a great way to get through the witching hour after I stop working and before Aaron got home from work (though Clara still whined endlessly for some stupid red thermal bag she spied when we got to the market).

It wasn't an easy trip. On the way home I was carrying Iris in the sling, had my overstuffed diaper messenger bag over the other shoulder, and was shlepping two full shopping bags, one containing four dozen egg cartons and the other a giant container of honey, in addition to various produce and household items. Imagine if one of those had dropped or opened up!

Still, I carried all this through rush-hour bus time, happily. But would I have been so happy if I *had* to take the bus to the store every time we needed food? Would I bring the kids with me, considering this a lesson in alternative transportation and developing street smarts? Or would I be bitter and resentful and just give up and go to the Kroger-owned Mega Store 5 blocks away?

And if this was three years ago, this wouldn't have happened. I had a full-time job and worked in an office downtown. I couldn't even take the bus then, unless I was willing to trade my 20 minute commute for a 1.5 hour one, bussing the triangle from work to daycare to home.

Now, I have so many choices.

And then there's my favorite market, New Seasons. All the produce has state labeling, sometimes a label that tells you the name of the farm that grew the food. They mark processed foods created in Oregon, Washington and Northern California (the latter doesn't qualify as local to me, but I'll choose Cali before, say, Maine in most cases). The co-op does an even better job of this by including bulk foods.

I just re-checked the farmers market schedule and in October I still have a half-dozen farmers markets I could easily buy from. Next month I'll be down to about three that are still convenient, there will be two through December, and one is year-round.

I have so many options. This is all so easy for me.

But I've heard that it's not so easy for everyone. If you want to eat locally but find it's a lot of work, what are the challenges that you face? Are there ways to make small changes, like doing one meal a week that's mostly local, or does that feel like more effort than is feasible and worthwhile?

I think Alisa and JB's suggestions are great but I'm also keenly aware, as I was when I read Plenty, that they are childless freelancers in good enough shape to ride their bikes everywhere. Not everyone is in that boat; even now I'm not and I have more flexibility in my life than a lot of people.

So what *would* make it easy for you? What could you commit to? Or, if you have made small changes, what *does* work for you? And please understand, these questions are not rhetorical, nor are they meant to induce guilt! I really am interested in what's working for people and what are the roadblocks to local, sustainable eating.

One-car Family Update:
So far, so good. I haven't driven my Subaru for over two weeks, instead driving the BioBeast, walking, taking the bus or train, or using Flexcar, which I mostly use for work. So far Flexcar has cost me about $75 this month (all expensable), much less than the Subaru costs, which is close to $200 per month (only mileage is expensable). Aaron did drive the Subaru to Burgerville last weekend when I had the truck, but I contend that had he not had that option he would have walked to one of the many restaraunts in our neighborhood. Or just made some food at home.

I think it's time to just bite the bullet. I want to sell the Subaru while it still has some value. I think it's time for a tune-up and detailing. If you're in the market for a sweet, low-miles (65K) '98 Impreza, let me know!


LaurieA-B said...

I prioritize buying in my neighborhood, and supporting neighborhood businesses (including chain groceries), over eating local. Fortunately, we live a short walk from our neighborhood farmers market, where we can do both. Our main focus, both for convenience and for our commitment to walkable neighborhoods, is to shop where we live. No car for eight years, occasional Flexcar, lots of bus (Seattle's best farmers market and Pike Place Market are both a short bus ride away). How we get our food started with choosing our apartment.

I just found your blog and had to read it once I discovered it was about food and a daughter named Iris, just like my husband's. I look forward to reading more.

Stefania/CityMama said...

I can't wait to hear about your winter-time eat local adventures!

(And, the new blog design is now right on the money...can't wait for you to see!)

Hope you are well!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I have the same conversation with myself. In fact, this was a timely post as I have taken a break from reading food blogs by people without kids because I get frustrated when I can't keep up with their efforts. For myself, we make small changes one at a time and let them become old hat before we move on to the next change. I had a CSA box for 3 years before I did anything else. Looking forward to reading other's comments.

Unknown said...

I live in a small town in Minnesota. I foresee that our local co-op will be my major source of local food throughout the winter, though our little farmers' market, which closes regular operations about now, does offer an occasional indoor winter market. The co-op is pretty committed to supporting local providers, so if there is something reasonable I'm looking for that they don't have in stock, I imagine they would have a good network for tracking it down, if it's available. It's very conveniently located, so that's not an issue, and I like to give them as much business as possible, since they just opened three years ago and I want to do what I can to make sure they survive! If they weren't here, it would be a very different story. I don't have a big freezer, or room for one, where I'm living for the time being, so my ability to stock up is somewhat limited, and I'm not really intending to go out looking for farmers to buy directly from. I "heart" my co-op!

Donna said...

I'm really impressed at what you can do with two small children! I have just one (age 2 1/2), but he gets into EVERYTHING and so taking him on the bus with my arms full sounds like a nightmare. I'm part of a CSA and we shop at the farmers' market and do u-picks whenever we can. After picking peaches I had to process them ASAP because my son had picked up each peach and dropped it. Why? I don't know. But he really enjoys all our "alternative" shopping. I don't think I could survive without my Subaru, though.

Unknown said...

Katherine - You've been quiet lately! I hope all is well. Are you planning a local Thanksgiving?

Tanya said...

I have some things delivered to me; local flour products, for example, are only available by driving out of the city, so they mail stuff to me. The local dairy, too, is out of reach (and my home is out of their delivery range, too), so I have them deliver milk to my office and carry it home in a backpack on the train. Also, I intentionally located myself 5 blocks away from the farmers market that's open year-round, which sells both plentiful vegetables and plentiful meat, should I be so inclined.

Roxanne said...
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