Want to know the dirt on Eat Local Month?
As April drew to a close, it was appropriate to check in with some of the other people who took the challenge from Lowcountry Local First to see how they did, or didn't do, as the case may be. What they learned; did the challenge change them?
Maybe to find out what food from “off” they couldn't live without, at least once. For me, it was a hot dog and a banana.
I quizzed several local eaters, including Jamee Haley, director of Lowcountry Local First; Lee Deas, owner of Obviouslee Marketing; and Stacie Gregory of Mount Pleasant, a budget-conscious, mostly stay-at-home mom of two preschoolers and a former coupon clipper. Gregory “stumbled” across the Eat Local challenge while researching healthier foods. Her husband is at risk for high cholesterol and she has an autoimmune disease. She took the challenge and wrote a blog about it at bonbonsand allmychildren.blogspot.com.
Q. Overall, how did you do? Jamee: I would say I did 75 percent local, which I think is pretty good. One of my biggest downfalls is avocados, so spending four days in Phoenix eating locally was a nice twist on my challenge.
Lee: I'd say I scored about a 60 percent. I really thought ahead of time that I was pretty much living this lifestyle already and that it would not be difficult, but it was definitely more challenging than I expected.
Stacie: We signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) through Thornhill Farm, a CSF (Community Supported Fishery) through Abundant Seafood at Shem Creek, and we have been getting milk, eggs, chicken, beef and other local goodies from Our Local Foods (Thornhill Farm). We've been shopping at Boone Hall Farms store when we do need to pick up random food items. I think we've done a great job. I would say we had spent about 90 percent of our food budget on local food.
Q. What was the hardest part?
Jamee: Probably breakfast because I try and keep it light, and (I) have high cholesterol so have to avoid eggs, sausage, bacon — all the yummy stuff! I do have steel cut oats that I purchased from Our Local Foods and Geechie Boy Grits and, of course, strawberries.
Lee: The hardest part was trying to eat local outside of the home. You can support local by eating at locally owned establishments, but it doesn't mean that all of their products are locally sourced. I found that oftentimes if you stick with the specials that there are at least a few local, seasonal ingredients included. Many restaurants list all of their local products on their menus, which makes it very helpful.
Stacie: The hardest part has been that we have had to increase our weekly food budget. For a couponer, this is a tough pill to swallow. But I heard the saying, “Pay your farmer now or pay your doctor later,” and I knew that rang true for our family. Also, paying up front for the CSA and CSF was a leap-of-faith commitment. We've never done anything like that before, so it was a little scary. But the rewards have been sweet.
Q. The easiest part? Jamee: Strangely enough, the seafood and the meat were pretty easy due to the shares I purchase. It's always on hand and in the freezer. Now that the farmers markets and CSAs have started back up, I am in hog heaven!
Lee: The easiest part was sticking to my regular food shopping and choices at home. We use Kitchen Table Cuisine (local online food market), and they deliver to your home or a local stop once a week. We buy almost all of our fruits, vegetables, dairy, snacks and even some prepared meals from KTC each month. I switched to the Charleston Coffee Roasters company (at least it's locally owned) and stocked up on tea from the local Charleston Tea Plantation. I get my yogurt and granola from Black Bean Co.
Stacie: The easiest part is that shopping has been like a field trip. I took my 2-year-old down to the docks to pick up our first share from the CSF. We got to meet the fisherman and see the boat that caught our fish. He filleted fish for us, and we got to experience the local culture and wildlife as we waited. ... I can tell this is something we will continue to do in the future.
Q. What did you take away from the experience?
Jamee: As always for me, it's about the relationships and connection between myself and those who are producing my food. The fact that it tastes so darn good doesn't hurt!
Stacie: Our eyes have been opened in this experience. My husband and I are not originally from Charleston, but we've both lived here for about 14 years. We had no idea how many options for healthy food, grown and raised with integrity, were right in our community. We have an obligation to our children to raise them with the best eating habits possible so they can hopefully avoid the health challenges that have plagued us. ... And knowing that we are in turn supporting other local neighbors who are trying to do the best they can in raising their kids is better than any high dollar coupon I could clip.
Q. Anything else you want to say?
Jamee: I hope that folks will see the value in making some upfront investment in not only local farms and fishermen but their health as well. The saying “pay the farmer now or the doctor later” really couldn't be more true when we consider the dominance of processes and fast foods in most people's diets. The goal would be that as we grow our local food economy and create more market opportunities for new and existing growers that local, healthy food will be accessible to all.
Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.