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What is a 100 Mile Diet?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The 100 mile diet is a term used in American food activism to describe a diet which consists entirely of foods grown and raised within 100 miles (161 kilometers) of the dinner table. Followers of the diet often describe themselves as “locavores,” because they eat locally produced food. While following a 100 mile diet can be a challenge, many food activists think that it is worth it, for a variety of reasons, and an annual Locavore's Challenge partially promoting the 100 mile diet is undertaken by people all over the world.

In the United States, food may travel as much as 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) to reach the plate. These traveling miles are referred to as “food miles,” and they have a profound impact on the environment, farming practices, and the quality of the food. The issue of food miles began to be a popular cause in 2006, when several major supermarket chains vowed to cut down on the food miles required to get their foods into the store, focusing more heavily on locally based foods. Proponents of the 100 mile diet were an important part of putting this change into action.

Food miles impact the environment because they translate into carbon emissions, thanks to the trucks, planes, and boats used to transport them. They also play a role in farming practices, as farmers will engage in unsafe and dangerous practices when they know that the people consuming their food are unlikely to ever visit the farm. Many Third World countries have less heavy restrictions on labor and chemical use than the First World, meaning that an American consumer purchasing strawberries from Chile may be contributing to child labor and the use of pesticides banned in the first world.

Finally, food that has to be shipped is of a lower quality. These foods are bred to make them easier to ship, resulting in a decline in quality which is exacerbated by the practice of picking them before they are ripe, subjecting them to extreme temperatures, and tossing them into a supermarket where they may sit for weeks before purchase.

Followers of a 100 mile diet believe that Americans are experiencing a profound disconnect from the source of their food, and would like to eat healthier food while connecting with local producers. Under this diet, people learn more about the region in which they live as they collect foods in the wild, meet food producers, and connect with the seasons as they learn about which foods they can obtain during which seasons. A 100 mile diet also supports the local community, by bringing business to local farmers, and promoting farmers' markets and community supported agriculture. Finally, many locavores believe this diet is healthier, because they eat fresh food which is often sustainably grown, instead of food out of boxes. In the long term, it can also be cheaper, as consumers network directly with producers, cutting out the middle man, and avoid packaged foods, which tend to be more costly.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By croydon — On May 25, 2011

@pleonasm - It's probably harder than you think, even without considering the things you mentioned. You might think there are a lot of different kinds of food that grow near your house, but when it comes to staples like flour, there are usually not as many as you think. Remember that your staples have to be 100% local, so pasta, rice, flour, bread, spreads, etc, all possibly have important ingredients. Usually a big one is salt. The 100 mile diet ends up being very healthy because it's easier to get fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods than anything else! Potentially, you could make unhealthy foods too, but they are usually more complex.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who really commits to having a 100 mile house. The local food movement is a truly worthy cause.

By pleonasm — On May 23, 2011

The 100 mile diet is easy to follow in some cases, and more delicious even than eating non-local foods. But, the few exceptions are usually coffee, tea and chocolate. Those three things are so difficult to source locally in most places, and so difficult to give up! People say you can substitute lots of different things for coffee, like dandelion root, but it's not the same.

Plus drinking and eating fair trade coffees and chocolates is providing jobs for people... I tell myself this to justify it. If not for those I think I could breeze through the 100 mile challenge.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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