A local bite

I’m nutritionally challenged.

On most days, I subsist on Diet Coke and make more trips than I’d care to admit to fast food joints for lunch. It’s an embarrassing trend that makes me feel especially ashamed when I think of all the wise and disciplined eaters in Southwest who shop at co-ops and fill their bodies with healthful organic produce. It’s also a lifestyle at odds with the environmentally friendly habit of eating locally.

Inspired by more enlightened eaters in our community, I decided to do my own mini-version of the month-long Twin Cities Eat Local Challenge. The challenge, organized by area co-ops, such as the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops, ends Sept. 15.

The Wedge has had two Eat Local competitors — Sarah Swan and Fred Greico — blog about their efforts at www.wedge.coop.

As part of the challenge,  participants are required to base 80 percent of their diet (four out of five items) on food produced within the five-state area.

OK, so it’s pretty pathetic, but I only committed to one day of eating local. Baby steps are necessary for a problem eater like me. Over time, I’m optimistic that I can adopt better

Not only is eating local a good way to get more nutrient-rich fare into your diet, it’s better for the environment since distributors use less energy (i.e. gasoline) to get the food to your plate. According to the Wedge, most food items in our local grocery stores traveled 1,300 miles.

Here’s a snapshot of my attempt at being localvore on Aug. 23.

I’m not much of a breakfast eater during the weekdays (another one of my food faux pas), so I decided to head to French Meadow for lunch. The bakery and café is one of the restaurants endorsed by the Co-op Partners Warehouse for its commitment to small farmers and buying local and organic food.

At the French Meadow, 2610 Lyndale Ave. S., I asked for recommendations for a good local dish. One of the bakery’s managers suggested a turkey sandwich since the turkey is free range and raised in Minnesota. I picked the turkey cheddar sandwich with cranberries, white cheddar, red onions, tomatoes and romaine lettuce on grilled sourdough bread. The café gets local produce from a variety of suppliers.

After sharing the satisfying sandwich with one of our freelance photographers, I headed to the Wedge, 2105 Lyndale Ave. S., to pick up groceries for dinner.

The co-op made it really easy for me to spot local food with stickers on labels and signs above items in the produce section. I was Wisconsin-centric in my selection process. I picked up arugula, organic chicken hot dogs, a cherry tomato medley and mild white cheddar made by farms based in our neighbor to the east.

All of my selections for the day were very flavorful and satisfying, leaving me eager to shed my old habits and find ways to get more local fare in my diet on a regular basis.