The 100 Mile Diet

J.B. MacKinnon, Smith, A. 2007. The 100 Mile Diet: a year of local eating. Vintage Canada, Toronto, Ontario.

This book describes the year long journey of Canadian couple, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, in their challenge to eat food grown only within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver. The chapters of the book correspond to the months of their challenge, starting in April. The chapters I have read start at April and end at the start of October.

In this book, the young couple decide to take on the 100 mile diet challenge after discovering that the average meal travels 1,500 miles from place of production to our plates. By eating only within 100 miles, our carbon footprint can be greatly reduced. However, as they soon discover, eating only within 100 miles means giving up a lot of their favourite necessities such as sugar, exotic fruits and most importantly, coffee. Throughout their journey, they meet many local food producers such as farmers, fisherman and bee-keepers. They also begin to see how connected nature is and since humans are a part of nature, we play a major role in the balance of life.

I really enjoyed how the authors of the 100 Mile Diet were able to make me think about issues that I had never contemplated before. Not only does this book discuss the carbon footprint associated with not eating locally but it also made me think about how much our food system has changed and how much less connected our modern society is with nature. These are two factors, which I believe, go hand in hand.

On page 54, James mentions the word traceability as a way of measuring how close one is from their food and that today, we have very little traceability of our food. I’ll admit, I was a little embarrassed when I began to look at the typical food I eat in a day and realized that I had no idea where this food came from. I’d like to think my food came from the little illustration of a farm on my bag of spinach, however, the harsh reality is that it probably came from a massive corporate owned farm and traveled more miles to my plate than I have travelled in the past year. I had no traceability of where my food came from yet this was something I had never questioned before.

Also on this page, James discusses how we have also lost the traceability of many aspects of our lives. For example, knowing which vegetables are in season and even knowing what kind of produce grows near your home is something I think a lot of people are lacking. On page 62, when Alisa and James pick up their Red Fife wheat and he describes “separating the wheat from the chaff,” I couldn’t picture what this looked like because I realized I had never seen wheat before nor did I know what part was used when making flour.

I think that the intentions for the 100 Mile Diet are really positive. Not only does it promote eating local but also encourages people to become more aware of where their food comes from. A part of knowing where your food comes means becoming more connected with nature. As I read this book I felt like I was alongside Alisa and James on their quest to become more connected with their food. As much as I wish I could follow Alisa and James’ path and eat only within 100 miles of my home, I don’t think this is something I would be able to do. However, I think the purpose of this book isn’t to convince people to join this diet but to make people think about where their food comes from. If this is the case, the authors did a good job because since reading this book I have started to take the time to look at the labels on my produce and wonder what kind of journey this food took to get to my plate.

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The 100 Mile Diet

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