[This is a truncated version of a post from the Slow Coast blog, a fairly new regional blog.]

This year, we will be celebrating the fourth annual Powell River eat-local challenge, also known as the “50-mile diet”. This event is our very own regional spin on the 100-mile diet, which started out with two Vancouverites named Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who decided to try to spend an entire year eating only food from within 100 miles of where they lived.

The idea is simple: anyone who wants to participate is welcome to do so at their chosen level of participation. The usual ‘entry level’ is 50%, meaning that you will attempt to get half of the food you eat from sources within 50 miles of where you live. Some participants go for 75%, some for 95%, and the real hardcore cases might go for 100%, although that level of commitment is not for the faint of heart. Like most diets, it works better if you can convince the other people in your household to go along with it — no one wants to be eating local potatoes and kale while surrounded by others eating Chilean grapes, Thai mangosteens, and Turkish taffy. That’s just not fair.

The period of the eat-local challenge has traditionally been six weeks, but this year we have decided to step it up a little bit in the interest of getting the numbers to line up. So we’re proposing a 50-day stretch to go with the 50 miles. Right now it looks as though the challenge will begin on Saturday August 9, 2009 and will end on Sunday September 27, 2009, which is the second day of Powell River’s annual Fall Fair.

The eat-local challenge is all about:

  • educating individuals about where their food comes from;
  • bringing families and households together in a common project;
  • getting the community thinking and talking about its food production, present and future;
  • creating positive connections in the community among food producers and food consumers, and among people sharing ideas, recipes, and (above all) food;
  • demonstrating to ourselves and to our politicians that there is public interest in eating more local food.

This year I will be part of a team of eager organizers. If you would like to get involved with the fourth annual eat-local challenge, please contact me. We are hoping to kick things off this year with a tour of local productive food gardens, in the hopes that that might inspire people to start growing more food. We have all kinds of ideas about involving local restaurants and grocery stores. We would like to have lots of information going around the community about where the eat-local challengers can find food: weekly emails, blog posts, possibly even a podcast! Potlucks and other opportunities to get together and compare notes and progress. T-shirts. Local art from local artists. Maybe some kind of a celebration at the end, with prizes and a final local food banquet.

We’re blogging! We’re on Facebook! We’re on Twitter! The sky’s the limit, so if you would like to help us celebrate local food and the joys of the relocalized palate, we can use your help.

And if you simply would like to participate, you can sign up here. Once you’re on our email list, stay tuned for updates and information as we get closer to the challenge. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell the neighbours! Let’s make this year’s eat-local challenge the biggest and best yet!