June 2015: Locavore Challenge

This June, I am taking up a locavore challenge. This challenge is by no means decided on the spur of the moment, but a culmination of months of sociocultural and intellectual enrichment on the topics of environmental sustainability, conscious eco-living and the “support local” movement that has gained traction in Singapore. To trace this seed of consciousness and manifestation in a chronological manner, I first caught whiff of the locavore movement through “Singavore,” a youth-led campaign in January/February 2015 to raise awareness of homegrown produce. One fine Sunday afternoon in January I headed down to the second installment of Kranji Countryside Farmer’s Market. That sojourn opened my eyes and captured my attention as to what can be grown and harvested from local soil. Here’s a background of the challenge in FAQ style.

What is a locavore?

A locavore is a person who eats food prepared within a defined, close radius, usually 100-400 miles from “epicentre”, depending on local conditions. It was coined in 2005 by four San Francisco women who encouraged residents to eat foods grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius. The movement was so successful that “locavore” took the trophy for Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary in 2007.

Yet on hindsight, before the words “locavore,” “seasonal” and “farm-to-table” became catchphrases and hippie trends, they actually describe the everyday reality of survival in traditional times.

Why locavore? Reasons for choosing local

Economical reasons
Choosing local supports the local economy and farmers. Farmers selling directly to customers can keep as much as 80-90 percent of the income received compared to 9 percent kept by farmers within the global food system (Evonne Donaher). The income is most likely circulated in the local economy and works to build it instead of being dispensed to an unknown corporation in another city, state, or country. Organized events such as local farmer’s market can contribute to the local economy. At the same time farmers and vendors benefit through entrepreneurial opportunities and build strong customer relations and connections with other stakeholders in local food systems.

However, it must be pointed out that while choosing local may benefit the economy on the whole, it is still more expensive on the consumer’s wallet at this point in time.

Environmental benefits
Reduced food miles and a smaller carbon footprint are often cited as the environmental benefits of choosing local against the landscape of climate change. Food miles is a concept relating to the distance the food has travelled from farm to plate. Eating more local-grown foods reduces the demand for fossil fuels used in transportation and in corollary, greenhouse gas emissions.

However, food miles only factor in the distance travelled and not the total energy used in the production of the product. Other factors that add to a product’s carbon footprint include water use, cultivation and harvesting methods, pesticide use and packaging methods. are an important part of a meal’s carbon footprint, but not the only factor.

The best choice to reduce one’s food environmental impact will be to seek out local farmers who uphold organic and sustainable growing practices. Better still, take a challenge, start small and grow your own herbs and sprouts.

Furthermore, beyond the nebulous concept and calculation of “carbon footprint,” purchasing local grown encourages responsible land development through demand for green spaces and farmland, less it be cleared for other projects.

Nutritional and tasty reasons
Eating local means shorter food miles, and a shorter time window for the deterioration of nutrients before it is prepared. A study in Hawaii compared local grown mangoes and oranges to imported varieties and found that local produce had 117% and 150% more vitamin C that the imported counterparts respectively. Imported produce are usually picked before their prime to allow for easier handling during transportation, which results in lower nutritional value. Storage and handling post-harvest conditions can also vastly impact the nutritional quality of the final product.

Furthermore, local food usually tastes better than food flown in from thousands of miles away. Try tasting the difference between cherry tomatoes picked fresh and local compared to cherry tomatoes picked days ago, factory-washed, and sealed in plastic.

Social impact
Knowing the provenance of your food gives you a deeper sense of place and connects you to the people who raise and grow it. Instead of having a single relationship–to a big supermarket- we develop smaller connections to our neighbours and local communities on a deeper level with greater trust. Eating locally satisfies our stomachs and souls simultaneously.

Guidelines for the Locavore Challenge

  • Eat within a 4000 mile radius (South East Asia, South Asia and Australia). The radius is extremely wide due to necessity dictated by realistic conditions of living in Singapore.

  • Up to six non-local food items is allowed. To allow more variety, these six items can change each week.
  • Up to six meals a week can be “off the wagon.”

Preparation, Participation, Posting and Tracking

  • Weekly meal plans will be posted before each week (on Saturdays).

  • I will share two innovative and creative recipes from the meal plan each week.
  • I will share review one local product and one restaurant over the month that supports this challenge’s philosophy.
  • I will be using the hashtag #sglocavore on media platforms for tracking.

Why I am setting myself up for this seemingly mindless and painful challenge

Because I believe in a sustainable plant-based lifestyle for the planet. It is also an attempt to reduce my grocery budget and to increase accountability for my meals and I track my fitness goals.

Want to join in too? Leave a comment as a notification and good luck!

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