Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eat Local

Fresh vegetables sold in an outdoor
What is the “Eat Local” movement?
   Until recently, people have only eaten food that was located close to them. But in our current day and age, it’s very easy to buy food products that were produced from unknown sources in faraway countries. This may be convenient for consumers, but it can lead to safety concerns about unknown food sources and the weakening of local economies due to low sales of local products. That’s where chisanchisho comes in.

   Chisanchisho, literally meaning “local production for local consumption,” was started to protect local economies and give consumers peace of mind knowing that their food is fresh, delicious, and comes from a trusted source. In this issue, we’ll refer to chisanchisho as “Eat Local.” Since its inception, the Eat Local movement has also proven to benefit health by providing in-season, high-nutrient produce, benefit community building by creating relationships between producers and consumers, preserve local scenery and food traditions, and even help the environment by reducing fuel emissions caused by transporting goods. The same logic for Eat Local is now even being applied to other industries, such as automobiles and craft goods.

Ryoshin-ichi, an honesty market.
Eating Local in Kochi
   Kochi Prefecture is no stranger to the Eat Local movement. Farmer’s markets are at the heart of Eat Local, and the famous Sunday Market has a history tracing back roughly 300 years to the Edo Period. Today there is an outdoor market somewhere in Kochi City for every day of the week except Monday. Since 2008, there’s even an organic market held on Saturdays at Ike Park in Kochi City.

   Kochi is also home to a large number of ryoshin-ichi, where people sell their extra produce at the small, unmanned, stall-like shelves in front of their houses. Passersby can buy produce by dropping coins in the ryoshin-ichi’s basket. Cultural staples such as these have helped make Eat Local easy to adopt for Kochi Prefecture.
Current Efforts
   Although Kochi people have been eating local like this for years, the prefectural government first became involved on a large scale in 2003, when they created the Eat Local Division. Just like Kochi Prefecture’s Hospitality Division, made famous about two years ago by the movie The Prefectural Government Hospitality Division, a division named the “Eat Local Division” and made solely for promoting the Eat Local movement is likely very rare throughout Japan.

   The division runs various programs like using local produce in school lunches, but likely most useful for everyday consumers is the Oishii Fudo Kochi campaign. “Oishii” means “delicious” in Japanese, and “Fudo” is a play on words between “food” in English and 風土 (ふうど, fudo) in Japanese, which means the climate and topography of an area. Therefore, Oishii Fudo Kochi is a program that was made to get people to experience Kochi’s delicious food and scenery by eating locally grown products.
Flag of Oishii
Fudo Kochi.
   The Eat Local Division no longer exists, but the Oishii Fudo Kochi and many other Eat Local programs are being continued by the Regional Agriculture Promotion Division. If you go to the campaign’s homepage (www.chisan-chisho.com, Japanese language only), you can find useful information and upcoming events in Kochi related to Eat Local, and you can read about the prefecture’s current undertakings. The website also has an application for Oishii Fudo Kochi Supporters. The prefecture made this supporter program because it recognizes that the prefectural and various municipal governments cannot fulfill the ideals of Eat Local on their own; the efforts of many citizens are also necessary. Many producer groups, restaurants, markets, hotels, welfare facilities, etc. are registered as supporters.

   Supporters can raise the flag of Oishii Fudo Kochi outside of their establishments and use its logo freely. Supporters are introduced on the campaign’s website, and are further organized so that markets are included in a Direct Selling Map (直販所マップ), and restaurants are listed in Yasai de Genki-ten PLUS, the Healthy Vegetables PLUS (野菜で元気店PLUS) directory. Both are available as paper pamphlets, but these lists can also be viewed easily online. They are very useful for eating out and your everyday shopping!
The Future of Eat Local
   To be able to walk to a convenience store in five minutes, and buy meals with undecipherable ingredients labels and fruit that was grown overseas is undeniably convenient. However, this “convenient” age comes with its own set of uncertainties. Eat Local may not be able to solve all of our food culture problems, but it may be a good start. Let’s Eat Local in our everyday lives to constantly aim for improvements in our own health and our environment!