The 100 Mile Diet, was born in 2005 - a one-year experiment by a Canadian couple, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, in eating local food grown within 100 miles (160 kilometres) which is no mean feat considering the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. Deemed the 'new organic' this way of eating is not only better tasting, better for your health, and better for the environment but better for the local economy, and today thousands of individuals and communities have been inspired by the original vision. The social movement that advocates eating locally grown food terms its dieters - locavores.
As well as the obvious - food tastes better, is healthier (because you eat more fruit and vegetables and fewer pesticides) and you develop a greater understanding of the seasons, the 100-mile diet encourages fun and friendships. You get to know your neighbours when you eat local and support them financially, you can also spend time cooking with friends versus watching a movie and explore your home and vacation spots with food in mind. All provide a great learning experience and the opportunity to create some happy memories. Studies show that people who shop at farmers' markets have ten times more conversations than those who shop at supermarkets and the monetary contribution to the local economy when you purchase locally is twice as much as a dollar spent elsewhere. A British study tracked how much of the money spent stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested when spent at a local business versus a supermarket chain.
That's not the only saving though, saving 'local farm families' and giving them employment opportunities is another positive, as is keeping alive heirloom varieties of produce. Almost 2000 varieties of pears for example have been lost to date by multinationals in their bid for profitability and standardisation of produce. Three are typically offered in supermarkets, yet local farmers grow over 300 varieties of pears.
Saving the world, however, might be the biggest payoff of this diet. A typical British meal sourced locally traveled 66 times fewer food miles than its non-local counterpart and seventeen times less oil and gas was consumed in a regional diet (a study in Iowa discovered).
The idea of the 100-mile diet began for Smith and Mackinnon whilst visiting their cabin in British Columbia. The invention was borne of necessity. Having nearly exhausted their food supplies and with dinner guests arriving and no store to speak of, they scoured the surrounding countryside to produce a dinner of Dolly Varden trout, wild mushrooms, dandelion leaves, apples, sour cherries, rosehips and potatoes, and garlic from their garden. Inspired, they decided to continue the experiment when they returned home to Vancouver and symbolically began their one-year experiment on the first day of spring, March 21, in the Northern Hemisphere. Staples in their diet included seafood, chicken, berries, corn, and root vegetables but noticeably absent were cooking oils, rice, sugar, wheat, and beer. They also preserved foods for winter.
Random House published their book on the subject following the popularity of eleven monthly articles in the Canadian "The Tyee", written by Smith and MacKinnon. "The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating" was released in Canada in 2007 and in the US, in the same year, under another name "Plenty" One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally.
What will probably be more difficult to find is the World War 2 cookbooks Smith and MacKinnon used as a guide to cook food available to them, but this diet is definitely one to try. Not only does it cut excess use of fossil fuels but promises to do the same to your waistline without the need to count calories.