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#EatLocal: More Than Just a Hashtag

August 20, 2014

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In our classroom programs, it’s easy to teach kids to eat local. With their eyes full of wonder and sponge-like brains that will absorb every new thing, learning about the importance of eating local leads very quickly to understanding why, and then doing it in their own lives. Children never cease to be amazed by observing vegetables after planting them with their own hands.

Yet sometimes, it’s not just children that are amazed. When kids bring their plants back home, they share an enthusiasm for what they’ve learned that is contagious. Even if their family doesn’t have a garden, bringing our peat pots to put on the windowsill reinforces the learning that happens in the classroom: this is where your food can come from. The best way to do this is for the entire family to share in the experience together.

We understand this isn’t always so simple. In our world of immediacy, of Twitter and television and YouTube, deadlines, demands, and of ’24 hours is not enough’, we sometimes forget to think about one of the most important things: food. This doesn’t mean we forget to eat food, but we sometimes forget to thoughtfully consider what we put into our mouths. We forget to think about: where does our food come from? Who grew it? Who made it? How did it get from a farm to my fork? These questions are important as they tell us whether our choices are healthy and sustainable, or unhealthy and destructive.

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Photo courtesy of Klippers Organics

Eating local is not just a hashtag. It is a recognition of the lack of sustainability in large-scale, extended, and in-transparent food commodity chains. Eating local is understanding that knowing where your food comes from allows you to make informed decisions about your food. Eating local is not just the distance from the farm to the food but also the social aspects of speaking with farmers and supporting community producers. Considering the environment, local, in-season food available at farmers markets reduce food miles and many of our local growers use organic farming practices.

Unfortunately, many of our food habits have moved to to a less local focused structure; convenient food choices are often not as sustainable and vice versa, sustainability is not always convenient. But eating local is not an all or nothing option and there are simple steps we can all take to work towards having a more sustainable diet.

Stop by a farmers market. Here in Vancouver, there are farmers markets spread across the city on many days of the week from spring – fall and winter markets often take place on weekends from November – April. Many farmers offer CSA Boxes (Community Supported Agriculture) with convenient pickup or delivery options. Additionally, more grocery stores are starting to offer broader local food choices; we suggest checking labels and asking your grocer.

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Our classroom gardening program inspires students to think, wonder, and learn about urban agriculture and sustainability.

Plant an edible flower or vegetable by your windowsill. This can be a low-maintenance reminder of our connection to food and also beautifies the home. Consider starting a backyard or balcony garden with raised planter boxes or planter pots to grow your own fresh vegetables, herbs, or berries. Planter boxes can be homemade, or purchased at garden stores. Life Space Gardens have beautiful self-watering garden boxes perfect for balconies and small spaces.

Choose restaurants that serve local. If you enjoy eating out, there are plenty of incredible local restaurants, including some of our partner restaurants (Forage, Fable, The Acorn, to name a few) that specialize in local food. Ultimately, #EatLocal reminds us of the front-and-center role of food in our lives. It also opens our eyes to the possibilities, rather than the restrictions, of sustainability.

-Michael Ho

[Updated by Christina Boliszczuk, March 2016]

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