You can thrive on food grown within 100 miles
by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, Random House Canada, 2007, 272 pages.

Two years ago, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon decided to try eating locally for one year. Given the geography of the Lower Mainland, the two wondered how easy it would be to eat food grown within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home.

They learned very quickly that the task would not be simple. Absent from their diet would be grains, legumes, chocolate and sugar - and they started their experiment in March without a store of preserves from the previous summer. But their challenge led to an odyssey in learning about where their food comes from and a surprising array of local food with more flavour than they were used to.

Many are already familiar with James and Alisa's adventures via the local on-line magazine The Tyee. Now, this new book chronicles what they learned and exposes the vibrant, growing, local food system in the Lower Mainland.

The task of purchasing local fish became difficult for the pair after learning that most fish caught on the coast is flown to Asia for processing before being flown back to be sold as "fresh" on our store shelves.

But more and more people are flocking to farmers' markets, farm gate sales and grocers specializing in sourcing local food. Many are concerned with the environmental costs of conventional agriculture and the shipment of food around the world. Others are attempting to keep their money in their communities in support of local economies.

Eating holds special relevance for Christian communities. Our worship service focuses on a sacred meal. Where our food actually comes from, however, remains peripheral much of the time. Considering the 100-mile diet from a faith perspective, we might challenge ourselves to consider the implications of our food decisions. For example, was the food we are using grown in a way that stewards the gift of creation? When we purchase food, does it contribute to sustainable communities, economies and the environment?

Overall, James and Alisa's 100-mile diet adventure is not a diet, nor is it a prescriptive regimen, or dogma concerning local eating. Rather, it's about savouring the splendour of local food, exploring where our food comes from and celebrating the flavours of each season. And it might offer faith communities concerned with supporting local economies, nurturing communities and stewarding the environment a little food for thought.

Chris Bodnar, a parishioner at St. Mark's, Kitsilano, recently became a full-time organic farmer on a 10-acre farm in the Mt. Lehman area of Abbotsford.