Hawaii imports nearly 90% of its food from other places. We don’t even make many of the ingredients that most people consider essential to daily life anywhere on the islands. There are no rice paddies in Hawaii. No one in the state grows wheat nor makes flour (at least any that I’ve been able to find). There is not a single dairy left on Oahu (although if you read Meadow Gold’s website, they still say that is where they’re getting their milk…). That means there’s no local source for butter on Oahu then either (No butter? Oh my God, why did I move here???). Considering that we are one of the most isolated island chains in the world, should the current oil and economic crisis continue, we could one day find ourselves without planes and ships delivering food to our doorstep daily. It’s unlikely for now, I know. But if/when that occurred, some people believe that we would not be able to sustain our Island populations for even a month on the food that is grown and produced here. It’s a sobering thought.
Put all that aside for a moment, however, and you’ll find we’re quite lucky in many ways. Not only do we live in paradise (tee hee ho ho...I guess I can live with imported butter), but we are also one of the only states in the US that produces their own coffee, tea, chocolate, salt and sugar, we have a plethora of delicious varieties of fruit and fresh island produce, and we even have a few (albeit some nearly secret) farmers and fisherman that produce organic, free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, our own iodine-rich source of sea vegetables and some of the freshest prawns and fish that the ocean has to offer.
The Eat Local Challenge began in 2005, in an effort to get more people out there foraging across their home states (and in some case, foraging only 100 miles from their homes) for local sources for nearly everything. The goal was, and still is, simple: try your best to eat 100% locally grown foods for 30 days (or at least try and eat as many as you possibly can). Their website is a collaborative hub of foodies, food bloggers and normal everyday Joe's around the world who are doing their best to seek out local products - and they've even got their own title in Wikipedia: the locavore. Being a newbie to the local food scene here on Oahu (and after a great suggestion from a fellow locavore), I decided that this would be a great way to help (/force) myself find locally available products. So, I signed LB and myself up 5 days ago (hey, honey, I signed us up for something that I hope you want to do too...). Today was the first day. I'll keep you updated with weekly (maybe bi-weekly) posts on the progress of our local eating habits, but I'd really like to feature some of the better foods we find and eat throughout the whole thing, so stay tuned for that too.
The first step is making a creed of sorts:
1. What is your definition of local?
After a bit of research the last few days, I think our definition of "local" has to be the entire state of Hawaii, which includes all of the surrounding islands. Considering we're a small island ourselves (only 566.66 miles), and since the majority of those miles are either not livable (think: very steep volcanic mountains!), are full of residents or tourists and resident or tourist properties, or are industrial, then I think this is fair. Relatively speaking, the miles from Island to Island that our Island-produced products travel are far shorter than any food that would be imported from anywhere else. Also, when it is impossible to find foods that are grown locally, I will at least support local producers (for instance, we have some fantastic bakeries, even if they don't produce the flour, they know how to use it well!) - for me, this is part of the over-all goal and supports the local economy and small, family or individual enterprises. If I eat out, it will be at a place that sources as many products as possible from local growers and producers.
2. What exemptions will you claim?
I'm going to try to claim as little as possible, while still living like a person: spices that are not available locally (including pepper, unless I can find a local source...), flour, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, Dijon mustard and butter. I will also be drinking organic soymilk from Costco (milk costs sooo much here!) and using organic half-and-half in my coffee until I hear back from the people at Meadow Gold to find out if the really do source and distribute from local dairies. I was going to just cut them out completely, even if they were local, until I saw that they don't use growth hormones in their milk (whew). So I'll let you know if that changes. I'll try to make it through the month without rice, but I'm putting it here just in case I get desperate... Also, any perishables that are in my fridge right now that aren't local - letting them go to waste isn't good for anybody.
3. What is your goal for the month?
Our goal is to support our local economy and the farmers and producers who are the blood, sweat and tears that actually provide food to this Island state - it reduces our carbon footprint, supports local families, promotes sustainability and it's something I'm passionate about already. I've been wanting to find and feature local foods on here since we arrived in Hawaii, and this is a great chance to meet new people involved in the local food shed, to find great products, and even just to see if it's possible. But importantly, our goal is also not to break the bank. Food is not cheap in Hawaii by any means, and often local foods are even more expensive than imported goods (go figure). So, we aim to find high quality, local goods that are reasonably priced (or at least worth the price). I think that's about it. Gulp...what have I gotten myself into?!
You can still sign up. Care to join us?