Local Food Challenge…The Wrap Up!

The Growing Chefs Local Food Challenge has come to a close…and what a week it has been! Heather and I did our best to eat as close to 100 miles as possible and we certainly had our ups and downs. Thank you to those of you who donated to Growing Chefs and if you didn’t get a chance, there is still time!

Whenever you come off a project, it is always a good idea to debrief so Heather and I took a bit of time to chat about the week and glean any pearls of wisdom that the week brought to us.

Desiree: For a couple of gals who eat a lot of locally grown foods, this week really makes you think. No spices! No coffee (well..almost none)! No chick peas! I especially missed beans. And brown rice. And quinoa! On Sunday morning, that first cup of coffee tasted delicious. And I ate a whole pile of beans in my salad tonight. Heaven!

Heather: Food (and nutrition) is my life, but I felt this challenge gave food an even bigger role in my consciousness. My brain was always thinking ahead to the next meal or snack: did I have enough food at home, was there a farmer’s market today, what yummy creation could I make in the kitchen… Without beans and grains to fill me up, I was a lot hungrier. Being hungry all day caused me to pause and reflect on how lucky I am to enjoy such a selection of food when many others cannot afford nor have access to healthy food. It was a great reminder of why I do what I do. I want to help change the world. Make it a better place to live and eat real food. Food is such nourishment for the body and the soul.

Desiree: What surprised me was how easy (and how impossible) the challenge could be. The first 4 days were so easy because we PLANNED AHEAD! Again and again I am reminded that the only way to succeed is to plan. My meals were planned; my fridge was stocked. It was so easy that I forgot I was doing the challenge on a couple of occasions. The peanut butter incident comes to mind…Then it all started to fall apart on Wednesday. I didn’t buy enough groceries for the week and I started to run low on fruits and veg, then I ran out of 100 mile loaf Wednesday night. Everywhere I went was sold out of 100 mile loaf!!! I got caught in traffic coming home and didn’t have a chance to run to the Main St Market…so I ate no grains for the next two days. The meal I had planned for Thursday was too time consuming and had to eat a really sad assortment of food that night. If I had planned a bit better, I could have stocked up and frozen some more food. I should have grabbed some more flour to make muffins and more scones. Plan, plan, plan!

Heather: A common fallacy is that healthy eating is too hard. I’ve heard many make this statement for a local food challenge as well. Eating healthy or locally definately takes some work and a little bit of planning, but like most things (think: riding a bike), once you get the hang of it, it’s easier. And the best part is the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment every time you eat. Likewise, what helped me the most this week was the prep work. I made blueberry pancakes on Sunday for the week, Desiree and I made jam, and I planned out most of the lunch and dinner meals for the week. Putting time aside on the weekend or on an evening is a great way to get ‘food’ organized for the week.

Desiree: I really loved viewing my food choices from a different lens. As dietitians, we talk about nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, supporting local agriculture, choosing organics…but to force yourself to just eat local really focuses the lens differently. The local challenge gave a sense of purpose to my choices. I would have thought that I would miss all my treats, like dark chocolate or ice cream (which I could have made myself of course. MORE PLANNING!) but I was constantly thinking about where the food came from and it was such a great reminder of how complex food decisions can be when you are trying to eat sustainably.

Heather: What’s a gal to do when they fly toToronto for 2 days on their local food challenge? How do I eat Vancouver local inToronto? Or do I go Toronto local while I’m there and how do I do it without a fridge and while at a conference? Isn’t it great when life’s dilemmas are a simple as this! So, I packed as much local Vancouver food as possible – food for my flight and enough to feed me for a couple of meals until I could locate some Toronto food. My food bag was bigger than my suitcase! But I know all the other passengers were jealous of my delicious looking cheese and blackberry sandwiches with freshly picked tomatoes and carrots on the side.

Desiree: When you told me all that you had toted along on your trip, I was feeling very inadequate! I packed up all the extra local food I had to take to Seattle with me and then my father in law told me you couldn’t take fresh food across the border (was he right?) and then I left it all behind. But I did eat at restaurants with a local component. We went to this great restaurant called Bastille in the Ballard area that had a chalk board with a list of all the produce being grown on their roof top that was featured on the menu. Doesn’t get more local than that!

Heather: One of the cool things about Toronto is that local food is important to them too, so finding local food wasn’t so tough. I discovered a great store called Culinarium that sells Ontario grown foods. It was a great one-stop shop for local stuff. I was jealous of their array of local food: peanut butter, nuts, beans, lentils, dried herbs, salt, barley grains and various flours. How lucky are they on a local food challenge. But the key to tackling this travel challenge was doing research before I left. As Desiree has already mentioned: plan, plan, plan ahead!

Desiree: For next year, we need to have a baking and freezing date. And now that we have a week’s worth of local recipes on the blog…our meal plan is done! Should be a massive success!

Heather: My tip: be like a squirrel – stash away some wheat berries and hazelnuts this fall for next year’s challenge.

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One thought on “Local Food Challenge…The Wrap Up!

  1. I don’t think you are suppose to take fresh foods over he border but they never seem to ask anymore. I have taken my chances and brought along some things (packed lunch) but not a lot as I would hate to have to throw it all out.

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