Local First Milwaukee first launched its “Eat Local” campaign in 2014. For one quarter of the year, we would focus on local food producers, farmers, and dining. In 2015, we were approached by leadership at Eat Local Milwaukee, a collaboration of the Urban Ecology Center, Outpost Natural Foods Co-op, and Slow Food WISE to combine forces, and create a year-round resource center for local food.
By combining our resources and collaborating on a larger scale, we believe we can change food culture here in southeastern Wisconsin. By answering the question, Why Eat Local? Encouraging community members to participate in the Eat Local Challenge, offering an online resource fair year-round, and hosting engaging events like Food Fright we can change how and what people are eating!
We invite you to join us in this effort. Check back frequently for new resources. Visit our blog for recipes and local food stories. Take the Eat Local Challenge. And tell others about your local food adventures!
Why Eat Local?
Fresh, locally grown foods don’t just taste delicious – they are better for you, your community, and the environment. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. What is Local?
Enjoy excellent taste and freshness
Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. And local farmers often cultivate varieties of fruits, veggies, and livestock that are bred for flavor and suitability to our region rather than for uniformity and ability to travel.
Know what you’re eating
Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Do those eggs come from free range chickens? What does “free-range” really mean anyway? When you eat locally, it’s easier to get answers. You can build relationships and trust with farmers, bakers, and stores.
Support endangered family farms
This is a critical time to support your farming neighbors. Buy locally and ensure that more of your money goes to the farmer and local farms can stay in business.
Strengthen local economy & communities
Buying locally keeps your dollars circulating in your community and is an investment in healthy communities. Wisconsinites spend $192 billion annually for food. If we all spent just 10% locally, that would be $1.9 billion that would stay in our communities.
Protect the environment & reduce your carbon footprint
Most food travels over 1,500 miles from farm to plate. Buying locally grown food reduces pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels while preserving farmland near our cities. Your food dollars make a difference in building a sustainable future
Get in touch with the seasons and get to know your region better.
When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that strawberries are savored in early summer and tomatoes later in the growing season. In the winter, foods like squash make a lot more sense than flavorless tomatoes from the other side of the world. You’ll likely have a chance to try varieties Find out what is grown in your area of the country. Visit farms and see how food is grown.
What is Local?
What is Local? You decide. Local food brings you closer to the source of your food, helps to reduce your carbon footprint and builds community. To some, local means homegrown, while others may include the entire Great Lakes region in their definition.
Take steps to get to know where your food is coming from by asking yourself:
- Is the product locally grown? produced? owned?
- If no local options are available, consider buying your global goods from a local business and look for organic and fair trade.
- Take into account how you travel to obtain your purchases as walking, biking, and local transit options help reduce your carbon footprint too.
Eat Local Challenge
The Eat Local Challenge originated in Portland, OR—organized by the renowned think tank EcoTrust. http://www.ecotrust.org/ Over time, a grassroots effort of locally organized, independent challenges has sprung up around the nation- with thousands of people around the country participating, in their own way, to build a better food system in their community.
In 2007, the Friends of Real Food, an interest group of the Urban Ecology Center, started the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge. In their first year, the group engaged Beans & Barley, who supported the effort by serving a local food entrée at each meal for the entire week. Just one year later, after connecting with several more local food groups and building on the success of that first Milwaukee area challenge, there were ten restaurants participating, and the annual Eat Local Resource Fair was born.
Today, Eat Local Milwaukee and Local First Milwaukee have partnered, offering an ever-available online resource center, and year-round local food education and programing. We hope that you will consider participating in the Eat Local Challenge, which always takes place during the first two weeks of September.
Check out articles featuring the Eat Local Challenge since 2007:
Your Eat Local Challenge:
There are no rules! We encourage you to create your own Eat Local Challenge to reflect your values and commitment to local food. It’s as simple as a commitment to eat more local food than you do today. Commitments might look like:
- “I will eat 100% locally, with the exception of salt & pepper.”
- “I will try one local vegetable at my farmers market each week.”
- “I will request a local beer or spirit when I’m at happy hour.”
- “I will only dine-out at local, independently owned restaurants (and I’ll check the Local First Milwaukee directory before I go out!).”
- “I will shop for seasonal groceries from Wisconsin growers.”
A few things to consider as you’re defining your commitment:
- How am I defining “local”?
- With whom will I share local food?
- What will my exemptions be? What do I want to eat that isn’t grown anywhere locally? For example, you might decide to commit to Fair Trade coffee and to use olive oil.
The Eat Local Challenge is an individual commitment, not a contest! The point is to challenge yourself to see what you can live without and what new sources of food you can find and enjoy. It’s about thinking “Local First” and seeking local alternatives that support our community and economy. Even small changes over a period of time can have a measurable impact!
The Eat Local Challenge is about taking the time to reflect on what we choose to eat, and how we can impact the world around us. When we eat with intention, we can choose foods that are good for our health, community, and the earth. Mindful eating is also about taking time to share our food and ideas with the community.
Ways to Engage:
- Try a new recipe made from local foods (link to ELM cookbook)
- Go on a Discovery Hunt (link to ELM brochure)
- Plan an Eat Local party and share some local foods with your family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors:
- Garden Party – share your garden’s bounty
- Harvest Picnic – shop and picnic at the farm or farmer’s market
- Tell The Story – educate your guests on where their food comes from
- Try one new local food – something you’ve never eaten before
- Read labels and ask questions – try to know where your food comes from
- Buy directly from a farmer – visit a farm or farmer’s market
- Visit a restaurant that features local food
When it’s over:
Want to continue eating locally after the challenge? Here are a few ideas to help you succeed:
- Preserve fresh, seasonal foods to enjoy later in the year (freeze, can, dehydrate)
- Plan to grow food for yourself next season in your own yard, on your patio, or in a community garden
- Buy food directly from local farms or farmer’s markets – join a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm
Ask your local grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses to stock and sell locally grown products
Eat Local Milwaukee Resource Center
The “Eat Local All Year Cookbook” is a project of the volunteers of Eat Local Milwaukee who want to share their love of cooking and eating local foods all year long. The cookbook is divided into seasonal sections, and includes menu plans to make it easy to eat local first! With over 150 tried and true local recipes, you’ll never run out of ideas.