A local food revolution
Locavores, a sustainable food movement, spread from the Bay Area.
Locavore: a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. In 2005 this term entered the American vernacular as a new dietary identity to accompany pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan. But it was different. It did not not seek to restrict, but to expose. To be a locavore is to have a mindset of opening oneself up to a greater awareness of one’s local food shed.
Especially in the Bay Area, a region teeming with natural food resources, eating locally seems like a no- brainer. As Emily Mathews, Jocelyn Alexander, and Debra Szecsei, co- owners of Vino Locale, put it, “we have to credit the beautiful place we live… it’s kind of hard to not be kind of local here with fresh produce.” With the consistent supply of produce of the Bay Area, they manage to offer about 80% locality in their menu.
“Why not eat locally?” Alexander muses. “I mean if it’s here and it’s available.”
Yet so many people do not think this way. They eat food which has been shipped, trucked, and flown thousands of miles. According to CNN, the average American meal travels 1500 miles from source to plate. Just think of all of the fossil fuels that are being burnt by such excessive transportation! Our current food system is both ecologically and financially unsustainable. Furthermore, it is impersonal. Most Americans grow up not having any idea where their food comes from or who produces it.
To combat this trend, Bay Area activists have committed themselves to revolutionizing their eating habits and expanding their understanding of where their food comes from. A group formed in the Bay Area in support of this movement to create a more sustainable, accountable food system.
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On World Environment Day in 2005, four ambitious Californian women, Sage Van Wing, Jessica Prentice, Dede Sampson, and Lia McKinney united under Van Wing’s lead to challenge the San Francisco Bay Area to eat from within a 100 mile radius for a month. But the group needed a name. Jessica Prentice combined the latin roots for place (locus) and devour (vorare), to form a word which she considered to have a certain air of mystery, “Locavore.” She saw it as a word that conveyed the concept of “eating not only from your place, but with a sense of place.”
To Prentice, an author, chef, and co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, the sense of place is an essential
element to being a locavore. Growing up as most children do, without any inclination as to the sources of her food, she was determined to challenge “the anonymity of our food system.” She began by eating organically, but by embracing the locavore mindset, she has taken her dietary awareness to a new level.
“Every time I buy food, I am voting for what kind of an economy I want to live in,” Prentice says.
Vino Locales customers reinforce this concept. “People think that if they are eating at a restaurant that supports local farmers, they feel like they are supporting local farmers,” Szecsei says.
They are not the only ones who think this way. Over the past half decade, the locavore movement has gathered steam. Rooted in Berkeley, California, this movement has spread across the nation with gusto.
Locavore meet- up groups have popped up from Idaho to Vermont, gathering to discuss, cook, eat, and share recipes. A group in Palo Alto, called “Hunt, Fish, Forage, Cook, Preserve” focuses each of their meetings around mastering a single one of these skills. According to their website, they seek to “rekindle and learn the art of food.”
Locavores shop at farmers markets, shift their diets to be comprised of locally available food, and preserve fruits and vegetables so that they can keep eating locally through the winter.
Being a locavore is far from a strict practice; it is flexible and acknowledges the complexity of food availability. If a person cannot find food from within a 100 mile radius, they may choose to buy regionally or on a statewide level. At Vino Locale, the owners recognize that they cannot maintain 100% local ingredients. It is simply not economically feasible to buy some ingredients locally, such as salt or pepper. But whenever it is possible to use seasonal ingredients, they are used.
“There are only a couple things we need to survive and food is one of them,” Prentice says. Being a locavore is part of a “deep quest to rethink and re-imagine and rebuild local food systems.”
If we can create a system in which the farmers that grow our food are paid directly, and we are not under the manipulative control of the public corporations that dominate our food system, we will consume less fossil fuels and more flavor.