Anyone Take the “Eat Local” Challenge?

Just Food Co-op featured their third annual “Eat Local” challenge, running from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15.

Just Food Co-op is challenging community members to eat 80 percent of their diet –that’s four out of five ingredients–from food produced in the five-state region for four weeks. Those taking the 80% challenge are Leading Locavores. Folks not quite ready to do 80% can still take the Challenge by becoming Local Learners. Local Learners pledge to eat five local meals per week.

Just Food had some great handouts available to help with meal planning and menu ideas, as well as an easy-to-read chart highlighting the peak harvest for various types of produce.

I’m a very strong theoretical supporter of eating local, especially with such a generous definition of “local”, but I wasn’t up to the challenge this year. The timing of the challenge coincided with a lot of travel and some additional complications to meal planning. However, it would be very interesting to hear from others who took the challenge. Was this the first year you’d done it? What did you find to be the most difficult aspect of eating local, if any? What made the most impact? Will this make any difference in your long-term eating and shopping plans?

10 thoughts on “Anyone Take the “Eat Local” Challenge?”

  1. I am currently taking the Eat Local Challenge, along with at least 117 other folks that signed up at the Co-op! I’ve taken the Challenge each year, and the best part is that it gets me in the habit of checking out where my food is coming from year-round. That doesn’t mean I won’t buy things from farther away, but it’s a conscious decision when I do. And I find I’m less likely now to purchase something that is grown in Minnesota from somewhere else when it’s out of season here.

    I think the hardest thing about the Challenge is finding good beverages and snacks. Whole Grain Milling Company in Welcome, MN makes delicious corn tortilla chips, and the Co-op carries local popcorn and ice cream. I still drink my black tea and occasional coffee during the Challenge, but that fits into the 20% of my diet that doesn’t need to be local.

    The free Harvest Festival on Saturday Sept 13 from 11-2 in the Just Food parking lot is a great place to talk with local farmers and producers, and enjoy live music- everyone should come!

  2. I didn’t sign up, but I got a button, thanks to the kind cashier at Just Foods.
    I have been trying to eat 50% organic for about five years now. And, I have bought all the locally grown stuff I see, without really seeking it. I just let it appear in front of me at the stores. I also told people about the gluten free bakery in Eagan, that the lady from the Brick Oven Bread store told us. Plus, Fireside is opened now and the apples are ready, so I will be heading out there today or tomorrow.

    In past years, we have joined the Valley Farm Organic coop, which has been great and made it easy to eat at least summer and autumn locally.

    Not sure how local locally eating is, but we try to keep it within a 50 mile radius, I guess.

  3. Our family shops exclusively at Just Food, and we also patronize the local farmers heavily, as well as growing our own in our garden.

    We have done the challenge for a number of years, and for us, it has become a way of life. We always try to eat as local as possible.

    Just Food labels all of the local items, so it is very easy to shop and eat locally.

    P.S. The name of the store is Just Food (singular) not, Just Foods. It is a common error that everyone makes. I did as well when I joined, until someone brought it to my attention.

  4. It’s amazing to me how much I have learned to incorporate local foods into my diet outside of the Eat Local Challenge. I discover new items each challenge that I then carry into whole year! It’s easy and it’s really valuable to look at where my foods are coming from and what other options are out there!!!

  5. O.k., disclosure, I’m a co-op employee, and proud of it.

    I am taking the challenge, though I try to pay attention year-round.

    My favorite, and perhaps most unique, concoction so far has been a drink. I used local/organic frozen strawberries and cranberries from sno-pac, and local blood-orange sorbet from Sonnies Ice Cream. I added these together in a blender with local/organic Prairie Vodka from the Muni for an amazing blended drink.

    These were just using things I happened to have in my freezer — easy as pie (well not quite pie, but you know what I mean). If I had thought ahead of time, I would have used fresh-local strawberries and raspberries as well.

    I also like to do Callister Farms seasoned chicken wings with local sauted vegetables and potatoes.

    ‘Course I usually just eat the local stuff in our Deli. Have you tried the hot bar stuff lately? Man! It’s good!

    That said, I do have my darker, “semi-local” side of chicken quesadillas and ribs at the tavern, Tiny’s hot dogs, and Blue Monday coffee.

  6. Alex is right the new deli items are delicious. Since our new deli manager came, I don’t think I’ve brought my lunch even once.

    I shop for about 80% of my food at the co-op. A lot of the staple items I eat like meat, milk, eggs, and seasonal vegetables are usually local all year round. If you haven’t had Nick’s eggs then I feel sorry for you. I do like the local shelf labels – it makes it easier to identify local product when I’m shopping.

    I don’t eat a lot of bread – but when I do we get the Just Bread. I’m not just plugging it because I work at the co-op. It’s really delicious and has a longer shelf life than the other preservative free loaves.

    I also started gardening this year and started a small vegetable plot. Mostly tomatoes and basil because they seemed like an easy first effort. Next year I hope to expand and grow a lot more. I really can’t get more local than the back yard. I’m also lucky that I live in a passive solar house in a really sunny part of town. I’ve actually had a cherry tomato plant indoors along with an herb pot that gets me through the winter. I wonder if I could do that with lettuces….?

    My two new favorite local treats are Laura’s Key Lime Marshmallows that can be found at Just Food and the new selection of desserts at B&L’s Pizza. The ingredients for those aren’t local, but they are locally produced. Oh, I also like BT McElrath’s chocolates which you can buy at Present Perfect. Again they are semi-local, but definitely more local than either Hershey or Godiva.

  7. For those of you who may not know it, the Eat Local Challenge (which is now gone National) was started here at Just Food two years ago by Joey Robison. It was so successful it was picked up last year by the Twin Cities group of co-ops, and due to success there, this year is being promoted across the country as the America Eat Local Challenge. How’s that for “home grown” success! Yay, Joey! and Yay, Just Food!

    I have to admit, though, that I did not sign up — partly because it’s actually less of a challenge to meet the challenge at this time of year when local produce is plentiful and I’m sure my wife and I already do. We try to do it year round and Just Food helps us a lot in that regard, actively seeking and stocking produce from the local and regional area over what is shipped from far far away whenever it is available.

    There is great (nutrition, taste and dollar) value in getting in sync with nature and taking pleasure in what is seasonable, like it was when I was a boy … “a time for asparagus and a time for melons, a time for blueberries and a time for squash, a time for …” (yeah, it’s biblical) … Of course we don’t have to be silly about denying ourselves all life’s little pleasures like coffee and chocolate and other things year round — some things aren’t grown here — but Just Food’s actively stocking local suppliers still helps us meet the 80%.

  8. Thanks Philip. Just to clarify, the Eat Local Challenge was actually started by four women in California (the same women who created the term “Locavore”). We were just the first store to do it (we believe), and to do it with our specific guidelines, like the 80%. We’re thrilled that other stores around the country have adopted our model this year!

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