Monday, November 2, 2009

Eating Local: Day 1

Day One:
The project that I am attempting is trying to eat only local food for a week. After looking at my choice of options, I decided that my definition of local would be anything that was produced and packaged in the state of Virginia. Unfortunately, because of the limited items available, I could not specify a specific radius, and had to extend my boundary to the whole state. Though many might argue that “local” food is not anything in your state, it would be very difficult to find a variety of different items that are also local. I also decided against trying to eat both organic and local food since that would limit my choices even more.
Over the weekend, I had decided to first try to get a good majority of my goods from the Farmers Market. However, I was unable to buy anything on Saturday because my debit card would not work at all. I found out from Wachovia that someone else had tried to make fraudulent purchases on my account and I would have to get a new debit card. When I finally managed to sort out banking issues, I discovered that the most convenient place to find local food would be Whole Foods. I ruled out CSAs and other local good providers since their expenses were too much for a college student to afford. Since this project was just for one week, I decided to make the most of my money. A CSA would probably be more useful if I decided to purchase local food on a regular basis.
I found that even at Whole Foods, my choices were severely limited. Most of the goods that were locally produced were dairy products, produce, and a few meats. I had already decided that for this experiment, I try to eat local food, but not necessarily organic food, so that widened up the choices in the meats department. Another choice I made was to not go vegetarian. I had been eating meat for too long to give it up cold turkey. With this general diet in mind, I went around the store looking for local food. The most local foods that I could find were in the produce department. Unfortunately, most of the produce was not in season in Virginia, so I was limited to apples as fruit. As with all the food, the apples were grown and picked in Virginia. I also found lettuce, cabbage and basil. I decided not to pick up any basil or cabbage since I don’t use it that often, but I got some lettuce.
Unfortunately, I did not find many local foods in the meats section. Most of the meat is shipped in from Georgia and Pennsylvania, but are produced by local farms in that area. When I asked the local store attendant if there were any meats that were raised in Virginia, he said that a few of the beef products might have been raised in either Pennsylvania or Virginia. Since my project is supporting local food in general, I decided to pick up a few beef items even at the risk that they were not from Virginia. In future visits, I will probably limit the amount of meat I get from Whole foods, since that was the most expensive item on the list.
Another area that had plenty of local goods was the Dairy section. I found plenty of eggs that were produced in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I stocked up with 2 cartons of eggs for the week, and made sure that the ones I picked up were produced in Virginia. I forgot to record the name of the exact farm, but I will make sure to check that the next time I go to Whole Foods. I also picked up several milk cartons that were produced in Burnt Chimney, Virginia. Even though the store attendant warned that the milk was expensive, the price wasn’t far off from the price they charge at Crossroads or C3. If anyone from UVA decides to get milk from either of those two places, they should consider going to Whole Foods for local milk instead.
After picking up all of my food items, I realized immediately that local food was probably not viable for your average college student. Since you had to have a car to just get to Whole Foods, it was out of the question for most UVA students. Furthermore, the bill was pretty expensive for food that would barely last me for 5 days. In total, I spent $57 for everything, and I expect that I will have to live mostly on the eggs and bread that I bought. But I think it would be more reasonable for college students to try and eat one or two local meals per week. Since the apples and eggs were not too much more expensive than your regular grocery store bought food, one can buy just a few items from whole foods or the Farmers Market. Starting from tomorrow onwards, I will look at trying to find locally made goods in other places on grounds, particularly the Fine Arts Café near the Architecture School.
-Avik Dayal

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