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Thursday, October 20,2011

Celebrate Food Day by eating local

By Blair Madole

The first annual National Food Day is Monday, Oct. 24, and, naturally, Boulder County has decided to engage in the effort with an Eat Local Challenge.

Food Day is a national effort to promote healthy and sustainable food and start the process of creating a better food system in the country.

The movement has six goals: to reduce obesity and diet-related disease, support sustainable farms, expand access to food, protect the environment and farm animals by reforming factory farms, promote healthy eating for kids, and support fair working conditions for farm and food workers.

“There is a convergence of forces that has happened to create Food Day,” says Mary Collette Rogers, the executive director of EveryDay Good Eating and an organizer of Boulder County’s Eat Local Challenge. “We’ve had so many incredible books and documentaries that have brought attention to the inequities and failures of our food system. Also, with Michelle Obama coming along, and great chefs and restaurants supporting local food, it was inevitable that somebody would say, ‘Let’s bring this all together and do something that really focuses attention on the food system.’” Rogers says the Eat Local Challenge is a grassroots movement focused on the power of the individual. The goal is to engage Boulder County citizens and businesses to think about the benefits of eating locally by having them create events with friends, family and neighbors that focus on local food. Rogers suggests neighborhood potlucks, special menus for local restaurants, or simply visiting the Farmers’ Market and buying some local produce to cook a meal.

Local restaurants like Arugula and Terroir are participating by providing educational information about the benefits of eating locally and by offering special locally focused menus for Food Day.

“This grassroots campaign is right up our alley,” Melissa Newell, co-owner of Terroir in Longmont, says in an email. “That being said, our menu for Food Day, Oct. 24, will highlight the many farmers and ranchers that we work with on a weekly basis (Aspen Moon Farm, Guerrilla Farm, Colorado’s Best Beef, John Long and Isabelle Farm, to name a few). Additionally, our nightly changing, four-course chef ’s tasting menu will be designed using exclusively locally procured menu ingredients. Our menus are printed in-house daily and will, on this day, include a spot illuminating Food Day and the importance of eating sustainably and humanely produced/raised products.”

Boulder County Public Health also played a role in organizing Boulder County’s Food Day and the Eat Local Challenge. Lane Drager, the consumer protection program coordinator for BCPH, says his department’s main focus for Food Day is to encourage people to eat healthier, raise awareness of rising obesity in the county, and educate citizens about the benefits of eating locally for both the local economy and food safety.

However, eating locally is not always easy, especially once the Farmers’ Market closes and available local produce is significantly reduced.

“In the winter, we have to learn to shift the way we eat,” Rogers says. “We have to learn to eat food out of storage. We have to combine the vegetables we froze, canned or dried with the locally produced meats, cheeses, eggs, jams and jellies. When you think in those terms, it doesn’t become such a difficult and mountainous thing to eat locally during the winter. You won’t be able to do it all the time, but I think we can begin to shift it more that way if we support local forces now.”

Rogers and Drager are both hopeful that the Eat Local Challenge will act as the catalyst for people to think about eating locally all year.

“People can look at freezing fresh fruits and vegetables, they can look at getting resources on how to do home canning so they can do it safely, or buy things that have been canned safely,” Drager says. “There are ways to plan for having access to local produce throughout the year. We have a great global food supply, but the issue there is that the more food is handled and transported, the more food safety becomes a concern. With Food Day, we want to kick off the concept of people taking charge of their own health, supporting their communities, and knowing where their food comes from — and that it is safe.”

Drager and BCPH are planning a locally sourced potluck for Food Day, where Drager will be supervising for food safety assurance. Rogers is hoping to host an informational and healthy dinner party with friends, where she will focus on teaching them how to cook with fall and winter vegetables.

Mayor Susan Osborne celebrated the event when she had her honorary last meal as mayor this week with the members of City Council. (Her term as mayor ends Nov. 15). The meal was made with local food.

“It was just so obvious, here we are recognizing a local food day — it seemed absolutely appropriate to have a locally sourced meal before the meeting,” Osborne says. “I think Boulder is a place that is very aware of how great local food is, and it is a pretty darn amazing community in terms of what we have been able to do with agriculture.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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