In Arizona, where I live, there has been an increasingly strong push for Phoenicians and others alike to spend money locally. I support local businesses as much as I can, and I’ve challenged myself to eat as much sustainable Arizona foods as possible. This mindset began long before I started thinking about New Year’s resolutions for 2010, but in doing so, I’ve realized how dramatic of a difference I could be making. Lots of people think they may be eating the right way — healthy foods harvested and sourced sustainably from close by. But, that is much easier said than done. I’ve resolved to think about every meal I eat, and I’ll try my best to accomplish several aspects of this goal.
The public market is close enough to walk to. Is there one near you?
First, there is the sustainability aspect. I have a twice-weekly farmer’s market and a five-day-a-week “urban grocery” within four blocks of my home. Between the two, I have tons of locally grown or raised food options, not just for my kitchen, but in the grocery’s grab-and-eat kitchen/wine bar as well. I can buy recycled products for the home, such as toilet paper, aluminum foil and napkins, at the grocery. Eco-friendly dish soap, detergent and cleaning products are also available, including some made in state. Then there’s the environmental aspect. I ride my bike or walk (0.4 miles) over to get my food. I’ve drastically cut down on my commute to and from supermarkets and convenience stores — Safeway (1.4 miles), Sprouts (6.8 miles) and Target (8.3 miles) are now relegated to times of convenience or necessity. I can’t say I miss idling in that afternoon traffic in search of items for dinner. And, it’s not just me who’s traveling. It’s also my food. Granted, places like Sprouts and Whole Foods do accommodate some local products and produce, but they are by and large still shipping things in from all over the world. The furthest source I’ve spotted at my farmer’s market is about a three-hour drive away. The grocery is stocked with almost entirely in-state products and produce. Anything else (beer and wine in particular) comes from neighboring states in the West. Not too shabby. However, it’s important to consider that I enjoy going out to eat as well. Admittedly, I’m not the world’s most talented cook, and I get stir crazy at home from time to time. It can be incredibly difficult to go to a restaurant and make wise, sustainable choices. Luckily, a lot of the restaurants in my neighborhood and surrounding areas are taking notice and sourcing local produce, locally raised meats and Arizona craft beers and small-batch wines. I’m hoping to see this trend continue in 2010, and I’ll be certain to take advantage whenever possible. Spending locally is key to a sustainable local food structure. For every dollar spent on local food, nearly half remains in state to support local farmers, chefs and restaurants. Compare that to spending a dollar at a national chain, where about 10 cents remains in the local economy. If our food future is dependent upon dollars, I have to make the right choice. I realize it’s pretty tough to stay 100% on track with a resolution like this. I can’t possibly know where every piece of chicken I’ll eat in 2010 comes from. I can’t be certain that a side salad’s veggies came from within 25 miles of where I’m eating it. The best I can do is make the wisest decisions I can. Here’s to a happy and sustainably fueled 2010!