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Carnivore, Omnivore, Herbavore,Locavore?
The one hundred mile diet - now there's some food for thought



There’s a new diet sweeping North America, but it’s probably unlike any other you’ve heard of before. The 100 mile diet isn’t about losing weight, rather it aims at making people think about where their food comes from and how their food choices can impact the world around them.

The diet began the first day of spring 2005 when Vancouver’s Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon decided to live as our ancestors did. For one year they ate only locally grown foods; all ingredients had to be local. “A lot of people thought that it was flat out impossible (but) we found that not only is it possible, but it’s really pretty fun,” MacKinnon says.

The rules were quite simple. Food, as well as drink, used for home consumption had to be produced within 160 kilometers of where they lived. The only times they allowed themselves to eat any differently were meals at restaurants or friend’s homes. “We wanted to make an experiment that was hard enough on us that we would really understand whether this was possible and how difficult it is, but not turn us into social outcasts,” MacKinnon says. 

The diet was invented after Smith and MacKinnon found what they thought was staggering information about their food. “We started thinking about this whole question around shipment and this is what it led to,” MacKinnon says. The independent environmental research company, World Watch (worldwatch.org), states that food in the United States usually travels between 2,000 and 4,000 kilometers from the farm to the table. That is an increase of about 25 percent from 1980. This average meal uses up to 17 times more petroleum products and increases carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount, compared to an entirely local meal.

But eating locally wasn’t easy. Smith and MacKinnon had their share of problems. “The hardest part of the diet so far, by a long shot, was the start because we just kind of dropped into it cold turkey,” MacKinnon says. Smith wrote about the diet on thetyee.ca, referencing the time she tried to make a local strawberry jam. Smith realized that sugar needed to be added to the list of ingredients. Instead, she and MacKinnon used honey sold by a woman close to home and the jam turned out like sauce.

 But it made the diet interesting. “The food culture that we’ve developed, that North American society as a whole has developed, a lot of it has its roots in the fact that most of us have less and less time to actually think about what we eat or where it comes from,” MacKinnon says.

Living in a one bedroom apartment, the only place to produce their own food is a small balcony garden where they grew basil, peppers and beans. Buying most of their foods from farmers markets and local farms, they decided to stock up for winter. “Because we had the summer and fall to prepare, we have a freezer full of food and we canned a lot of stuff, dried some things and we made a lot of contacts over the year of people that we could get food from, so this winter we’re eating pretty well,” MacKinnon says. “I think if you compared what we’re eating now to the average North American diet we would be eating considerably healthier food. Everything we’re eating is fresh and we know where it came from and in most cases we know the farm it came from.”
The pair completed the diet in early spring 2006 and say there will be some permanent changes to their eating habits. “We’re definitely not going to shift back to eating the ordinary North American diet,” MacKinnon said.

For more information visit www.100milediet.org.

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