Guest Column: Food Day reminds us of importance to buy local

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Most people, given the choice of doing good or doing nothing, opt for good. So as Oct. 24’s Food Day — a grassroots mobilization sponsored by the Center for Science to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable way — draws near, here’s some food for thought.

Those of us growing and promoting the local food system in and around Athens often refer to our fair city as a “garden of eatin’,” and it certainly is. Behind the curtain of this paradise of palate satisfaction are more than 170 farmers, local food producers, restaurant owners, farmers markets, wineries, breweries, creameries, food markets and not-for-profits that bring that bounty to our tables.

National awareness of the benefits of purchasing food as close to home as possible is growing as fast as mushrooms in damp weather.

Even the Girl Scouts are now offering a Locavore badge, encouraging young members to head to farmers markets to meet food growers and to make a meal with ingredients within 100 miles of home.

Here in Athens, I’d propose awarding a Locavore Hero badge to Avalanche Pizza owner John Gutekanst.

John recently announced that the 1.71 tons of corporate Italian sausage Avalanche purchased last year would now be replaced by locally sourced and humanely raised sausage made by King Family Farm in Albany, Ohio.

Ohio University is doing good, too, thanks to its local-foods champion and Culinary Services’ Executive Chef Matt Rapposelli, who has brought the delicious and nutritious milk and cream of Snowville Creamery and huge volumes of vegetables and fruits purchased at the nearby Chesterhill Produce Auction into the university’s dining halls.

Given the all-too-frequent national recalls of eggs and produce, the environmental consequences of the average 1,500 miles food travels to reach our mouths and the ethical and economic impacts of big agricultures versus localized, sustainable farming, I’d argue it’s imperative that we all do our local share. 

So I’d ask you to chew on this: What if the university’s 24,000 students and faculty each committed to spending $5 a month at the Athens farmers market, the Undercover Market at Village Bakery Cafe, the Farmacy, Busy Day Market, or in the local-foods section at Kroger? Or dined at restaurants that consistently source their menus with local ingredients, such as Casa Nueva and the Village Bakery?

You’d be pumping almost $1.5 million into the heart of our local-foods economy every year, and that’s a lot of good.

Natalie Woodroofe is the project manager for the 30 Mile Meal Project of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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