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Eat Local Challenge

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People are certainly getting the message that local food is a great option: It keeps money circulating close to home, supporting farmers and workers, and comes with a smaller carbon footprint since it doesn't need to take a long ride in a truck or airplane.

But how can you get still more local? Not everyone has the time or space for a backyard garden, and few city-dwellers can keep a cow in their apartment's foyer.

"What is local? Where can I find it?" Kara Holsopple says these are the questions on everyone's lips. Holsopple is the member-services manager at the East End Food Co-op, which is cosponsoring this year's Eat Local, America! challenge, with Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). The challenge is part of a national initiative. 

During the month of September, participants pledge to eat a portion of their meals made from local ingredients. They'll get a starter kit with a food diary and brochures from PASA and the co-op hipping them to nearby farmers' markets as well as the local offerings at the Point Breeze store. For instance, the co-op stocks a wide variety of Pennsylvania cheeses and is the only local retail outfit that carries raw milk.

"We're using the 150-mile rule -- that's our working definition [of local]," Holsopple says. Besides Western Pennsylvania, that includes parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

The month-long challenge will include several events, such as the Wed., Sept. 2, kickoff at the co-op, with demonstrations on fermentation and four-season gardening (yes, all four seasons, even the miserable grey ones here in Pittsburgh). 

On Sept. 20, check out the co-op's Art Harvest, with local artists and crafters, plus local farmers selling produce and meat. PASA will also hold a contest for backyard gardeners' veggies.

The month wraps up Sept. 30 with a screening of Fresh, a movie about local foods and other alternatives to commercial food. In it, locavore stars such as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, a fully-integrated farm in Virginia, weigh in.

For more information, check out www.eastendfood.com.

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