BELFAST — To highlight the importance of locally grown, raised and harvested food to the community, the Belfast Co-op and co-sponsors have organized the Eat Local Challenge. This March, the co-op is launching its eighth semi-annual challenge. In just one year, co-op customers spent more than $500,000 on local food. Local food dollars spent are tracked on a weekly basis and posted at the front of the store.
Individuals can learn how much they’ve spent on locally grown products at the bottom of their co-op receipts, where the Maine-grown product total is broken out. And during March, each time their receipt shows that they’ve spent at least $15 on locally grown food, they will be eligible to enter a drawing for a basket of local food worth $100.
The focus of the challenge is to encourage increased consumption of Maine-grown, -raised and -harvested food; to educate the community through free events; and to break bread together at the Local Food Celebration.
The highlighted organization for their March Eat Local Challenge is the Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project, which will give free, student-led tours of its new outdoor solar kitchen and greenhouse 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, March 16. Students will bake French bread and pesto pizza, available for sampling, in their new clay oven. The school is located at 173 Lincolnville Ave. (Route 52), next to the Waldo County YMCA. Park behind the school, near the large greenhouse.
C.J. Walke, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association organic orchardist, will present a free workshop on backyard composting 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in the Abbott Room at the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. The event is co-sponsored by MOFGA, the Belfast Co-op and the library.
Music, storytelling and a local food potluck are all part of the “grand finale” for the Eat Local Challenge 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 37 Miller St. The event is free and open to all. Bring a favorite local food dish to share and be prepared for a fun time for all ages. This event is co-sponsored by the Belfast Co-op, the Belfast Free Library, the Green Sanctuary Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, the Belfast Area Transition Initiative and Food for Maine’s Future, which will award its third annual Jim Cook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Local Food Access. Jim Cook was an organic farmer and marketer of organic foods through Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative, which he founded, and promoter of organic agriculture across Maine and New England. His daughter, Marada Cook, carries on his work. To learn more, visit www.crownofmainecoop.com.
The Eat Local Challenge highlights a local organization that represents an important aspect of our local food system. In the past, the challenge has highlighted Food for Maine’s Future, the Maine Farmland Trust, MOFGA and the Newforest Institute. For this challenge, they are highlighting the Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project, whose purpose is to grow empowered, academically successful young people who integrate sustainability into their lives by producing and learning to satisfy their needs locally. To learn more, visit www.schoolgardenproject.com. The school’s Garden Project art display will be hung during March at the Belfast Co-op, making this the seventh year the students’ artwork has been displayed in the Co-op’s cafe.
The Eat Local Challenge is co-sponsored by the Belfast Free Library, the Green Sanctuary Committee of the UU Church of Belfast and the Belfast Area Transition Initiative. WERU Community Radio has underwritten the Eat Local Challenge since it began 4½ years ago.
Information about the Eat Local Challenge will be available at challenge events, at the Belfast Co-op and at www.belfast.coop.