Hoping to shrink their carbon footprints or their waistlines, 150 people have signed up for the fourth annual Eat Local Challenge, which begins Friday.

Hoping to shrink their carbon footprints or their waistlines, 150 people have signed up for the fourth annual Eat Local Challenge, which begins Friday.

This year the weeklong challenge has three levels — the strictest requiring participants to eat only food grown or produced entirely within a 200 mile radius of Ashland, meaning no chocolate, bananas or coffee.

Of course, the budget for the event, organized by The Rogue Initiative for a Vital Economy, didn't quite allow for food monitors to police participants, so challengers are on the honor system, said Jamie Clark, THRIVE's business outreach coordinator.

"It's not like we send out spies to check on everyone," she said. "We're just hoping to get people to look at this and say, 'Oh, could I do this? Is this possible?'"

People who sign up for the challenge will receive a recipe packet, menu plan and a certificate of participation.

Those who elect to participate at the "purist" level — and eat only local food for the entire week — will receive a local food kit and a cooking class from the Ashland Food Co-op, a sponsor of the challenge.

The other two levels require participants to eat one local meal per day or two local meals per week.

"It's keeping the distance from the farm to your plate really low which is both environmentally friendly and, in many cases, it's healthier for you," Clark said.




This morning Co-op employees were busy boiling ocean water to make Port Orford sea salt and packaging up the food kits. THRIVE partnered with the natural foods store this year in the hopes that more Co-op customers would participate in the challenge. Fewer than 50 people participated last year, Clark said.

"It seems to be gaining a new momentum," said Annie Hoy, outreach manager for the Co-op. "People are starting to think about the effects that they have on their environment."

Dozens of activities are planned for the week, including farm tours, dinners and lectures. A kick-off party featuring live music and $3 fish tacos will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Co-op plaza. Mayor John Stromberg and Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, will speak at the gathering.

The events will end at 6 p.m. on Sunday with The Rogue Flavor dinner and auction, featuring a five-course dinner prepared by local chefs. Tickets to the event, held at the RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, cost $75.

Even if locals don't participate in the challenge, Clark hopes they will begin to think more about where their food comes from, she said.

"I do think that these events help, at least in creating a conversation throughout the Valley that we need to have," she said.

For the complete schedule of Eat Local Challange events, people can log on to www.rogueflavor.com.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik: 482-3456 ext. 226, hguzik@dailytidings.com.