Account from the Student Leadership Conference

I’m writing this during the evening, having spent my day with the 2013 Student Leadership Conference. I and others represented Common Energy on the committee planning the Local Lunch, which was served to the delegates attending the conference. Doing social media publicity work for the committee was something of a learning experience, and I had fun doing it. Even better was being able to eat some of the food served; I can’t say I’ve seen marinated carrot and goat cheese or squash and cranberry sandwiches, among many others, served anywhere before. AMS Catering did good work.

The committee tried to keep the radius from where food came within 100 miles, although we had some outliers, such as the Okanagan apples. As delegates got their food, they passed our Local Lunch booth, where we sought to answer the question “so what?” One of the conclusions our committee came to early on was that we should try to point out how eating local benefited the person doing it. It’s all well and good to talk about the abstract “local eating”, or even about the environment and “creating local jobs”. But it’s a funny thing about people that the best of intentions and the most idealistic affirmations of how vital these things are can often fall by the wayside when looking at cheap California berries at Superstore in the dead of winter. I do it myself all the time, because of efficiency, money and so on.

So we talked about health, and why eating better would be better for us biologically and nutritionally. I didn’t know before this that pasture-raised cows have more omega-3 fatty acids than the industrial ones. We talked about economic benefit: when eating locally in foods which are specialized in where you live, you can many times get more bang for your buck due to the amount of varieties available. Just look at the hundreds of types of heirloom tomatoes out there! Environmentally, we know that eating locally makes it easier to monitor quality, which both benefits the environment, but also serves to make sure that we are eating better food.

Taking this approach helped me confirm an attitude I have long had: that to make changes in these vital areas it isn’t enough to talk about the “big” changes it can lead to. We have to tell people how it benefits them to make a change: here, now, for their wallets and health and quality of life. We’re a lazy species, all told. We’ll make the little changes if we need to, but much easier if there’s something in it for us. Yet we’re also a dynamic one, which is why this dialogue and discussion is happening and has led to things like the SLC and the ideas and projects presented there. The variety in our collective personalities is as vast as the variety of foods we can find locally, if only we try.