The 100 Mile Challenge

ep2_back-to-basics-header2If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch the new Canadian reality series on the Food Network – The 100 Mile Challenge – I encourage you to check it out.

Families in the town of Mission have committed to eating only food and products produced within a 100-mile radius for 100 days, giving up coffee, tea, sugar, rice, yeast and most condiments and spices for the duration …

The series follows the struggles of six families for one hundred days as they desperately try to find local ingredients to replace their bare larders, meet local farmers and artisans, forage, and learn to prepare meals from fresh local ingredients. It may not sound scintillating, but it is a fascinating modern social experiment, and it’s being filmed just up the valley in Mission.

What I find most interesting about the show is how the process transforms the lives of the families – many only know how to shop at supermarkets and cook the prepared foods they find there, like boxes of mac and cheese. The process not only changes their relationship to their food but to their environment as well, (not to mention their entire way of life.)

ep6-final-stretch-headerAnother great aspect of the project is the community-building that takes place, the building of new ties and strengthening of existing neighbourhood connections. As with any collaborative social exercise, however, conflicts inevitably develop. My favourite couple is the politician and his wife that keep finding ways around the rules … it must be an endemic problem.

In an age when global trading patterns are being disrupted, increasing local trade is not only a virtue but a necessity.

Another result is an increase in local trade. All three levels of government spend millions promoting international trade ties, but very little promoting local trade. In an age when global trading patterns are being disrupted, increasing local trade is not only a virtue but a necessity.

Our policies should not focus any longer exclusively on foreign trade but also foster local trade, and in the process help residents of Vancouver source local products and food. It would be good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for our public health.

I’m not yet prepared to give up tea, rice or the many spices and condiments that are the natural best products of other countries. But where any food or product is produced locally – dairy, produce,fish,  meat, preserves, grains, wines and oils, Tom and I are making an extra effort now to find and buy local.

For the epicurious, the 100 Mile Challenge appears on the Food Network, Sundays at 8pm. They also have a great website that helps locate local sources of food and identifies which local foods are in season.

1 thought on “The 100 Mile Challenge

  1. I’ve been having this argument with my wife for some time as to why she likes this show so I have been searching for some of the reasons behind the challenge. I was under the impression that the idea was to eat local for the sole purpose of reducing the carbon footprint involved with getting foods to market. I could offer any number of reasons why that is simply bad science thus my dismay at the whole concept. For example, the lady who drove to the ocean so she could boil water to make salt obviously produced a much larger carbon footprint than a person who simply went to her local supermarket – even when the transport and production of the store-bought salt is factored in. Still, you did surmise some novel concepts for the challenge that I had not considered – like families learning to prepare fresh food and strengthening local ties though I think you could do these latter things without restricting yourself to foods produced within a 100-mile radius. My other major concern is that the show (and your blog) perpetuates the ideology that buying locally is simply better than buying globally but I don’t necessarily agree. For example, when we are able to buy sustainable products from the rainforest, we provide incentive to the people from those regions to leave the rainforest intact which is a benefit to the entire world. If you were able to buy the same product grown locally, it’s not necessarily better for the world for you to do so. Often our actions have unintended consequences but, I think more often than not, it’s more that we simply haven’t thought things through thoroughly. While I fully support green initiatives, I’m very wary of “false initiatives” that waste time, resources and resolve.

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