Written by Sarah Kitteringham
Eating locally-grown food from Calgary is much easier, more enjoyable and more ethically motivating than many would assume.
Being a "localvore" is not a struggle or a hassle, it just takes some education and effort. Calgary features an abundance of options for those considering, or practicing, a semi or fully local food diet. It also comes with several advantages for both the consumer and the local economy.
Just be sure to ask many questions about the source of your food.
"What the consumer has to decide, is this an ethical decision or a moral decision that I want to make?" says Lindy Kennedy, a registered dietician with a Masters in Health Promotion from the University of Alberta. Kennedy owns FitNut, a small business that sends dieticians to clients' homes. She is also an instructor at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Nutrition for Healthy Lifestyles Program.
"Do I want to keep purchasing foods that are genetically modified or modified in some way to make, for example, the ripening stage become later or sooner?"
It is these types of questions that inspired Brent Boeckx (formerly of Mortal Coil) and Linda Nainaar (formerly of FARM and Sugo) to open People Food– a gluten-free restaurant whose
ingredients are locally sourced – on December 20. The modest take-away restaurant on 8 Spruce Center SW in Spruce Cliff & Wildwood, has an ever-changing menu dependent on its producers.
"We thought we'll do a simple little thing with a simple little name and a simple little concept," said Boeckx, who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2010. The disorder is caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat and rye. Since adopting his new gluten free diet, Boeckx has dropped a considerable amount of weight.
The same is true of cook Landon Grams who has lost "a couple of belt sizes" since taking the job.
"I just feel better all around," says Grams.
"We will do all the hard work for you," said Boeckx. "We will figure out the source of the meat we are going to use, we'll figure out the way the farmers are paid..."
In the midst of heating up a hearty feast of mushroom soup, root vegetable salad, brownies and coffee, Nainaa and Boeckx explain they had to "quit their jobs to feed their family," including Boeckx's seven-year-old daughter Jane. Noticing that, they've priced the items at People Food accordingly.
"All of the things are priced in a way so a family of four who would go to McDonald's or Wendy's and spend $25-$35 dollars, they can come here and get real food," says Nainaa.
|Restaurants Whose Menus Feature Locally Sourced Food in Calgary
Grocery Stores Who Sell Locally Sourced Food in Calgary
**Kennedy recommends asking about specific products
Thankfully, there are options from the low to the high end of the monetary spectrum. The renowned Rouge in Inglewood – selected as one of the world's top 100 restaurants in 2010 – also fills their ever changing menu with such products.
"If you don't start with good ingredients, you don't get a good outcome," says head chef Michael Dekker, who has worked at the 10-year-old restaurant since 2009. Rouge is renowned for its oft-used on-site garden and local producer partnerships.
"People love us picking greens for them to eat; it's a great thing for the mind as well," continues Dekker.
Though the winter presents unique challenges for everyone for obvious reasons, Rouge and other localvore businesses ensure they stockpile their root vegetables (Calgary is reliable for potatoes, cabbage, and squash) and purchase from suppliers as close as possible.
"We do everything in our power to source them and grow them themselves.... the best produce is always going to be close to home," says Dekker. "Locally sourced specifically, they are going to be fresher and less damaged, picked at more their prime than say other products that come from miles away."
"If you want to make the decision to buy locally, feed the money into your local economy, [lessen your] environmental impact both from where the transportation is but also potentially what fertilizers, pesticides, things coming into the country for example, its an excellent decision to buy local."
Lastly, Kennedy recommends that for those just starting out, its best to take baby steps.
"Don't overwhelm yourself. You may want to start with your produce. Get really used to where you can get locally grown, everyone has likes and dislikes in your area, find out where you can get locally grown."
So what are you waiting for? There is a wealth of resources in Calgary to start your locally sourced diet today!
This is Part 1 in a three part story on purchasing, producing and preserving. Read part two, linked below.
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