Is eating locally possible within an average American family food budget?
"I'd love to eat local, but it's just so expensive to do."
Those of us in the Eat Local community probably hear this statement more than any other. As the editor of this site, I often cringe to hear it because I don't really have a good answer for it. Eating locally seems to be more expensive than other ways to buy food. Since this hasn't been tested, what better experiment than to challenge ourselves by eating local within the budget of an average American.
During one week in April, a nationwide group of authors from this site and some Locavores will commit to the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge focusing on eating local within the budget of an average American.
This challenge is not going to be about winning. It won't be about who can starve themselves and spend the least amount of money. It's about a very real cataloging of the expense of eating local so that we can begin to have a conversation about whether eating locally really requires a re-prioritization of family budgets.
Generally, those of us who agree to take the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge are going to try, from April 23 to April 29 to stick to the budget of an average American. What's the budget, you ask?
The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out some very detailed statistics about how much Americans spend on different parts of their budget. Part of that, obviously, focuses on food. The most recent data that they have published is from 2005, so we are going to use those dollar amounts for our challenge.
1 person in the family, one wage earner: $68 a week
2+ persons in the family, one wage earner: $121 a week
2+ persons in the family, 2 wage earners: $144 a week
2+ persons in the family, 3+ wage earners: $184 a week
In the spirit of other challenges put forth by this site, the challenge is customizable to the location and situation of the participant. If you're interested in participating, please go to the Penny-Wise Nuts and Bolts section. If you're interested in reading along with this real-life experiment, watch this site or sign up for updates on the right-hand column of this site to get posts delivered to your email inbox.
Jennifer Maiser is the editor of the Eat Local Challenge blog and the author of Life Begins at 30.