Cross Country Local
For many, eating is not just about pleasure, but also nourishment for both body and soul. Yet confusion about how to choose what’s best only grows as we begin to ask where our food is sourced and how it got to our plates. Is local better? What does sustainable mean, and how do I reduce my carbon footprint through my food buying choices? World Wildlife Fund Canada is shedding light on these and other food-related questions by helping Canadians answer them through its new Localicious event and accompanying Sustainable Food Buying Guides.
Canada is participating by featuring menus that spotlight the best of each region’s local, sustainable foods. Fid Resto in Halifax, Nova Scotia for example, will be offering diners slow cooked pork ribs with a side of spicy corn pudding and collard greens—all of which are currently in season. Fid’s owner and Executive Chef Dennis Johnston has been practising a local, sustainable food philosophy since 1989, more than a decade before he opened Fid in 2000. “To me, local isn’t just a fad, it’s a way of life. I’m also injecting money back into my own community—and to me that means supporting a farmer that’s within Nova Scotia.”
WWF-Canada’s Director of Communications Josh Laughren knows chefs like Johnston are what he calls, “the most passionate ambassadors for local and sustainable food out there.” He also knows that one way to get people to think about what’s on their plate is by offering them something delicious that may lead to a broader conversation about why what they’re eating tastes so good. “Localicious is a first step in getting diners to think about not what they’re giving up by making better food choices, but what they’re getting—because local tastes great!”
Local food, according to WWF-Canada, is in essence “food grown close to where it's being consumed, so it doesn't travel far distances to reach our plates.” Food transported over long distances by fossil-burning trucks or planes adds to our already polluted environment and to global warming. WWF-Canada is asking consumers to consider the following: The average food product travels 2,000 km before it reaches your home; multiply that by each food item you eat every day. Hence, buying locally lessens what’s called the “carbon footprint.” Sustainability, on the other hand, comes into play when this food is grown with a lower impact on the environment. The idea is that by greening your groceries, your food both tastes better and is better for the planet.
To help consumers make better choices, WWF-Canada’s Sustainable Food Buying Guides serve as regional “cheat sheets” comprising what’s being grown in a certain area and when. Laughren says that the issues surrounding food are incredibly complicated, adding “the Guides and Localicious are not prescriptive. The idea is to offer people a way to get informed to make the best possible decisions.” Chef Johnston adds, “This program helps make people aware of what they’re putting in their mouths. It is one more push to hit that point home, to create a solid movement to making better food choices.”
According to Laughren, WWF-Canada’s research shows that Canadians already care about climate change, wildlife and fish stocks—it’s just that they don’t feel they can do anything about it. “This is one way to show Canadians that they can do something. What we’re offering is the beginning of a journey,” he says. And a delicious one at that.
A full list of restaurants and menus can be found at wwf.ca/localicious. There are participating restaurants in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.