Many of us are only two generations removed from a primarily locavore way of life. My grandmother ate seasonally, grew and gathered her own food, put food by (canning, pickling, drying) or purchased it locally. Putting a face to the sources for her food was an everyday experience since the farmer, butcher, orchardist, miller, brewer, baker and fisherman were her neighbors.
The dominance of big ag and other corporate interests in our food lives, concerns about the environmental impacts of shipping foods thousands of miles, and the desire for more transparency about the sources of what we eat has led many people to reclaim a ‘nearer to home’ approach to food. This can be challenging for the many in the U.S., living in what are essentially food deserts. Yet where there’s the will, ways appear. In Youngstown, a Rust Belt city in northeast Ohio, where virtually every inner city grocery store has closed, food champions are combining community gardens, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), and corner store upgrades to provide healthy, fresh foods.
Here in southeast Ohio, we are fortunate that our food culture has been profoundly influenced and strengthened over the last 20 years by the passions and hard work of our region’s farmers, specialty food producers, independently-owned (and in one case, worker-owned) restaurants. Another important layer is the critical mass of local food economy non profits and resources such as ACEnet’s Food Ventures facility and Community Food Initiatives‘ investment in community gardens, the Edible Schoolyards project, and its Donation Station program that delivers fresh, locally sourced food to people in need at over 40 locations in and around Athens County.
So how does the 30 Mile Meal Project impact those within a 30 mile radius of Athens? For consumers, 30MM responds to the growing desire to know where their food comes from, who is producing it and how (think eggs and the recent salmonella outbreak). The Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACCVB) has created a 30 Mile Meal Map, making it possible for locals and visitors to find nearby food and farmers markets, eateries that primarily use local foods in their menus, CSAs, farm tours, food festivals and events, and more. You can even search for specific local foods such as dairy products, grains or beans. Through our partnerships, we offer learning opportunities such as food-making and cooking workshops and farm tours.
For our 30 MM partners, a major aim of the project is to support local foods earning opportunities for farmers, food producers, food markets, food events and local food enterprises. We’ve created an umbrella brand (logos, a tag line, signage, and products) that can be used to promote their particular piece of the 30 Mile Meal pie (farm, food product, restaurant, festival, etc). ACCVB recently launched a 30MM e-newsletter (anyone can subscribe) that shares farmer profiles, news of upcoming events, a ‘Dining Out with the 30 Mile Meal’ column, and recipes.
Other activities in development include a seasonal calendar of 30MM events and workshops, farm tours, market to chef cooking experiences, additional food-themed events, and local foods recipe contests. The project supports the ACCVB in responding to the growing interest in agri- and culinary tourism and through 30MM partnerships can create and promote touchpoint locavore experiences for both visitors and locals.
As the 30 Mile Meal Project takes root and branches out, our expectation is that it will nourish a more robust, sustainable and locally-driven economy. The seeds are planted…