The Northern Plains Resource Council launched its statewide Local Food Challenge this weekend, encouraging the production and consumption of local foods.
Throughout July, Northern Plains is encouraging state residents to challenge their eating and shopping habits by committing to eat more food grown by Montana producers.
“Montana has such a rich agricultural history, so it has never quite made sense that a major portion of our produce, grains and meat leaves the state to be processed,” said council member Jean Lemire Dahlman. “The Montana Local Food Challenge gives people an opportunity to play a role in supporting our local family farms and ranches, building community and bolstering our economy.
According to Northern Plains, Montanans spend $3 billion a year on food, though more than 90 percent of food products sold in the state originates from outside Montana.
If Montanans were to increase their local consumption by 1 percent, the organization said, it would keep nearly $30 million in the state. That translates to $110 million, as each purchase multiplies into additional spending, provides local jobs and promotes locally owned businesses.
“Every time we as consumers spend money, we’re determining the kind of local economy we would like to have,” said Dahlman. “We’re beginning to see more young producers return to agriculture with a vision for markets independent of the current corporate system. We see the value of this homegrown food at our own kitchen tables and kids’ schools.”
Northern Plains defines local food as any Montana product where the majority of ingredients are grown and processed within the state by a state-owned business. The organization has mapped 20 locations in Missoula that meet the local-food definition, including markets and restaurants.
“Consumers have increasingly asked for local foods over the last several years,” said Dahlman. “They know it makes for fresh, delicious meals and healthy families. The Montana Local Food Challenge is a great opportunity to help build this conversation.”
Local consumers can take the Local Food Challenge and chart their progress at the organization’s website. For more information, call 406-248-1154.