Food for Thought: 100 mile diet - local farms need our support

Recently I attended a Thames Region Ecological Association meeting at the Grosvenor Lodge on Western Road. This free event was open to those in the community who wanted to learn more about the growing concerns with our local farms slowly being pushed out of the market, mainly by larger producers in the U.S. and overseas. The meeting also gave individuals a voice to discuss what they think is causing the downfall of local farming and to brainstorm ideas to help the situation.

TREA is a non-profit organization that generates community awareness of environmental issues in the London area. One such issue includes the noticeable increase in imported meats and product in our grocery stores compared to the drastic decrease in locally grown foods being purchased and supplied. The speaker of the evening, Maryanne MacDonald, was pleased at the abundance of people who attended; so much so that seating was hard to find for some of the latecomers. The evening was such a success that there was no time for any breaks as attendants eagerly discussed what each of us can do to overcome some of the obstacles in finding locally grown food.

MacDonald has been on the “100 mile diet” since January 1 of this year and described the diet as challenging already. The 100 mile diet allows the partaker to eat only foods that have been grown within a 100 mile radius of where they live. As you can see, this diet may be a tad difficult to follow in the winter months as one would have to rely primarily on frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans and legumes along with available local meats.

The diet makes an important statement about the lacking availability of locally produced foods and how hard it is to find local items even during peak harvesting seasons when these foods could be grown in the surrounding area. MacDonald described how irking it is that in the prime harvest months we still find strawberries, garlic and other foods that have been imported from thousands of miles away. For example, during the summer months, delicious homegrown strawberries are sitting outside of London and yet the larger grocery chains opt to sell truck-ripened fruits, wasting fuel and increasing CO2 emissions during transportation. Also, these grocery chains support foreign economies through a system of imports rather than stocking shelves with product available nearest us.

There is no need for us to be importing as much food as we do considering our local farmers are eager to supply us with their fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy products. These farmers are being “driven to extinction” trying to compete with the low priced foods offered at the superstores.

Some suggestions to help support our local food economy include demanding big chain grocery stores buy locally, creating a food co-op to spread local produce to a small number of families, challenging restaurants to buy locally when possible, and to grow your own food using community gardens or your own backyard. Also, one person mentioned On The Move, a company that distributes local produce by bicycle.

The general consensus of the evening was that local farmers need more support from the community if they are to survive global competition and we need to be more conscientious about where our food supply comes from. The price difference may be a deterrent to some, but overall, we should not put a price on building and maintaining a strong local economy.

To learn more about TREA and see what other events they have coming up, visit