Southwest co-ops promoting Eat Local, America! challenge

In case you haven’t noticed, the local food movement is hot.

Farmers markets are more popular than ever. Restaurants all over town are promoting menus featuring local fare and interest in urban farming and gardening is exploding.

Folks who want to learn more about the local food movement — and those who have already jumped on the homegrown bandwagon — should check out the Eat Local, America! challenge.

The challenge, which runs Aug. 1–31, calls on people to pledge to eat more local food. There are two options for people who participate: Veteran locavores are asked to have local food make up 80 percent of their diet (four out of five meals) and newcomers to local food are encouraged to eat at least five local food meals a week.

People can register at eatlocalamerica.coop or by signing a poster at any of the 11 Twin Cities Food Co-ops, such as the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops.

Kim Kusnier, marketing programs specialist for National Cooperative Grocers Association, said there are many benefits to eating local.

“It’s good for the economy because money from each transaction stays in the region. And it connects residents to the people who grow or produce their food, while helping to support family farms,” Kusnier said. “Plus, local food is more nutritious and simply tastes better because it’s often harvested or processed the same day It arrives at the co-op.”
    
Twin Cities-area co-ops are planning several events tied to the eat local challenge:

— Gardens of Eagan/Cedar Summit tours — the farms are in Farmington and New Prague (Aug. 1, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.)

— Eat Local kick-off dinner at the Eastside Food Co-op in Northeast (Aug. 1, 3–7 p.m.)

— Eat Local kick-off celebration at Lakewinds Natural Foods in Chanhassen (Aug. 1, 3–7 p.m.)

— Just Food Corn Roast at Just Food Co-op in Northfield (Aug. 1, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.)

— Eat Local Ramadan Feast at East Food Co-op in Northeast (Aug. 29, sundown.)

The Just Food Co-op sponsored the first eat local challenge in 2006. The following year all of the Twin Cities area co-ops participated, and in 2008, the initiative became a national challenge.