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.