The Eat Local Challenge draws awareness to Hawaii’s food system and sustainability issues

By Joleen Oshiro

If your idea of “eat local” is a paper plate buckling with hamburger steak, two scoops rice, mac salad and extra gravy, reconsider the term.

In this era of sustainability, “eat local” carries the weight of conscience, referring to consumption of locally grown and produced food. By that definition, there are few plate lunches to be found.

So what replaces them? And why?

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There are many places to start and many perspectives to consider. For Hawaii farmers, the issue lies in their struggle to stay viable while we import more than 75 percent of our food, sending more than $3 billion out of state each year. For consumers, it’s about knowing where their food comes from, how it was grown, how nutritious it is. For the state, the concern is over food security. If a catastrophic disaster hits the isles and disables airports and harbors, how will everyone get fed, and for how long?

When it’s laid out this way, it’s clear that beefing up the local food supply is in order. But shifting the situation requires tackling some big issues, one of which is changing consumer habits – not an easy thing.

But here’s one way to start: Kanu Hawaii’s Eat Local Challenge, in which regular folks attempt to eat local for a week, beginning Sunday.

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