By Nina Wu
Kanu Hawaii's monthlong Eat Local Challenge starts this coming Thursday, Sept. 1.
For the third year, Kanu Hawaii is issuing the challenge, encouraging thousands of island residents to build a more sustainable, secure and healthy local food system. This time, the challenge lasts for an entire month instead of one week.
It's challenging to eat entirely local, but it's easier than it was in past years.
We now have locally produced milk (Hawaii Fresh, sold at Foodland and Down to Earth, from the Big Island) and cheese from Naked Cow Dairy, along with local eggs and local beef, but still no locally produced olive oil (macadamia nut oil could be a substitute) — and forget rice because we don't grow rice here.
But we do have plenty of choices when it comes to fruits and greens — everything from locally grown tomatoes to lettuce to apple bananas, strawberries, papayas, mangoes, arugula, eggplants, mushrooms, chard and kale. We've also got avocados, limes, lychees, and basil, some of it right from your neighbor's or your own yards.
We want to support eating local because 1) It reduces the carbon footprint of foods transported from the mainland and other countries and 2) It supports local farmers and the local economy and 3) It promotes food security.
One of the best ways to start eating local is to visit a local farmers' market (and the number of these markets are growing - you now have markets organized by various groups other than the popular ones by the Hawaii Farm Bureau). You can chat with the farmer or grower who actually grew the papaya you're buying, eliminating packaging and shipping. Remember to bring your own shopping bag, and learn what's in season.
I've become a fan of Ho Farms multi-colored tomatoes, as well as their golden grape tomatoes and cherry reds — they have so much flavor.
Here's the breakdown of the Eat Local month-long challenge:
Week 1: Education: Learn about Hawai'i's local food system
Week 2: Grow your own: Plant/harvest local foods at home and in the community
Week 3: Choose local: Find local food at restaurants and markets
Week 4: Eat strictly local: Strive to eat only locally grown foods for one week
Here's a list of events, including the grand opening of the Ala Moana Farmers Market on Sept. 3, a Schools of the Future conference at the Sheraton Waikiki on Sept. 8, Eat the Street Sept. 30 and cooking demonstrations at both Down to Earth and Whole Foods Market.
4-7 p.m., Aug. 31: “Ag in the City" at the Honolulu Farmers Market at the Blaisdell Center. Five guest chefs will partner with local farmers to serve up dishes featuring local meats and produce.
9 a.m.-1 p.m., Sept. 3: Ala Moana Farmers Market Grand Opening, upper deck by Sears. The first 100 people to sign up for Eat Local 2011 receive a shopping bag.
7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sept. 8: Schools of the Future Conference at the Sheraton Waikiki Hawaii Ballroom. Open to educators, parents and students.
You can also find a list of Eat Local 2011 partners, including supermarkets like Foodland and restaurants like Big City Diner, which will feature specials on local dishes and menus.