If you committed to a diet of food that was grown within 100 miles of your house, what would you miss most? Coffee? Spices?
It's a valid question for Waterloo naturopaths Rachel VandenBerg and Michael Torreiter, who hope to round up 100 local residents to join them in eating "100-mile food" for 100 days.
Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, a B.C. couple, were the first to try it. They devoted themselves (with some exceptions) to eating local for a year, then chronicled their experiences in the much-discussed 2007 book, The 100 Mile Diet.
Smith and MacKinnon then took the idea to everyday folks in Mission, B.C., having six families there try 100 days of eating food that was grown and produced within a 100-mile radius. A TV report describing the results recently aired in a Food Network Canada program called The 100 Mile Challenge.
Torreiter and VandenBerg run the Healing Path Centre for Natural Medicine on King Street in Waterloo. They thought about their 100-mile idea a couple of years ago and were going to try it then. Other things got in the way, but fast forward to now and the two are ready to take on the task.
On Tuesday, they'll hold a recruitment session of sorts from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery on Caroline Street in Waterloo. The event will be catered with locally produced food. All are welcome.
Region of Waterloo public health planner Marc Xuereb will give a presentation on local eating and growers will be on hand. There will be a Q-and-A session about how the project will work.
Though the 100 days won't officially start until Saturday, July 4 -- it's timed to coincide with the local growing season --VandenBerg says they're organizing now to help people to avoid the stress of being unprepared.
"This way we can paint a picture of what these 100 days will look like and people have time to figure out what prep work they'll need to do," she said in an interview.
Over the course of the project -- it wraps up at Thanksgiving -- there will be potluck events, organized farm expeditions and workshops.
VandenBerg says she and Torreiter are open to suggestions from participants as to how the experience can be enriched for everyone.
Local food growers and sellers are thrilled about the project and many are offering to help in any way they can. It will, after all, mean increased sales for those who run small food-based businesses and are constantly struggling to compete with commercial grocers and big box stores.
Asked what participants will find hardest to give up, Torreiter and VandenBerg offered a few thoughts.
"Coffee and chocolate," they both said, right off the bat.
"Sugar might be tough but we do have honey and maple syrup," added VandenBerg.
"Nuts and seeds might be a problem. And people pretty much can't have anything that comes in a package, so the loss of convenience will be tough. I think making everything from scratch will be the hardest thing."
Torreiter laughs at the thought of getting out a pasta maker late on a Friday night and telling the kids to wait a couple hours while he prepares and cranks out the dough.
The 100-mile diet is seen as a good way to reduce your carbon footprint while supporting the local economy. But Torreiter said he thinks the health benefits will also be well worth the effort as well. (One 100-mile eater in Mission, B.C. unexpectedly lost 42 pounds.)
"As naturopaths, we're interested in healthy eating and (in) anything that gets people back to a whole-foods-based diet," Torreiter said.
"The prevalence of processed foods is just huge. Giving that up will be hard for people."
If you think you're up to the Healing Path Centre's 100 Mile Challenge, visit the centre's website at www.healingpathcentre.com or phone 519-578-7000.
Or head down to the gallery on Tuesday night. Maybe one bite of those homegrown regional canapés will have you signing up on the spot.
Dinah Murdoch is a Kitchener writer. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.