LJWorld Green

Merc suggests 2-week diet of area foods

August 9, 2008


The Merc, 901 Iowa, offers more than 800 locally-produced items. Many of the local producers are featured in signs in the produce section at the store.

The Merc, 901 Iowa, offers more than 800 locally-produced items. Many of the local producers are featured in signs in the produce section at the store.


Welcome to our ongoing project, LJWorld.com/Green. Here you can find tips on how to make your life environmentally friendly and read stories about what others in the community are doing to live a more green lifestyle. Eat local, conserve resources, be green.

On the street

Do you try to buy food that is grown or produced locally?

Not really. I just go with whatever they have at Checkers. The price is pretty much the bottom line.

More responses

In a season that brings an abundance of squash, potatoes and apples, The Community Mercantile is challenging Lawrencians to get to know their local foods better.

The co-op is proposing a two-week diet where people consume 80 percent of their meals from food that is grown or produced locally. The Merc defines local as within a 200-mile radius of Lawrence.

"We are trying to raise awareness of the benefits of local foods," Merc marketing director David Smith said. "This is a really important issue, especially with food prices going up primarily (because of) transportation costs."

The Merc will have a sign-up sheet for those who want to take on the challenge, which starts Sept. 14 and ends Sept. 27. The store will be one of 70 cooperative groceries nationwide featuring the "Eat Local Challenge."

The Merc, along with other Lawrence groceries, has several local foods on its shelves. In the summer, the produce aisles have locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and beans, among other fresh foods. The store also carries bread, meat, cheese, eggs and milk from nearby farms, dairies and bakeries.

The Merc has 600 items on its shelves that fall within the 200-mile radius, Smith said. Those goods are marked with "Miles to the Merc" tags.

"You are not going to starve on a 200-mile diet," Smith said.

While the daily staples of coffee and chocolate aren't grown near Lawrence, Smith said there is plenty of locally roasted coffee beans to be found and a local company makes chocolate.

Eating local is a trend that has gained momentum in the past few years. Books, Web sites and grocery displays have cropped up touting the importance of eating food closer to home.

According to a 2001 study from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, produce travels an average distance of 1,556 miles.

Smith attributes food safety scares, such as the concerns over tainted tomatoes this year, as helping push the movement.


sdinges 9 years, 8 months ago

STRS: I doubt this is a gimmick for more profits - since the ownership of the Merc is cooperative, and people buy in because they enjoy it, not as an investment, the Merc doesn't really need to worry about furnishing it's shareholders with big checks.That said, they did just do a big expansion - what if they are looking to pay it off by encouraging people to shop at the Merc for local food (although I'd say they're doing a better job of cross-promoting the farmer's market in this case). What's wrong with that?As for the LJworld covering it as news - it's a local event, promoted by a local business and benefiting local farmers, that local people may be interested in. That seems like it would qualify for a story in the local paper.

Phil Minkin 9 years, 8 months ago

commuter (Anonymous) says: Great concept. besides the Merc, where else can you buy food than is produced less than 200 miles away? Farms ?Farmers market Sat 7-11am, Tues., Thurs. 4-6pm. Casbah Mkt downtown. Bismark Gardens- North Lawrence(they have regular ads in the LJW. Does Marion have any evidence that the lot is polluted? Or just a polluted point of view.Nobody: Everybody never does anything, but the more that do, the more local producers will provide. Think global-eat local

nobody1793 9 years, 8 months ago

If you draw a 200 mile circle around Kansas City, and everyone in the KC Metro decided to do this, I'm curious if there is enough food grown to support them. I'm not making a point either way, I'm actually curious.

Quigly 9 years, 8 months ago

The article should be titled " Spend more money at the merc for 2 weeks diet" Nice try. I am done buying 10 $ "organic free range chickens. I know where you get those chickens Merc. I know your secret. BUT, it is a great idea. My garden and fruit trees are doing great and I have spent the extra gas money to go to some other farmer markets in surrounding towns. www.localharvest.com is a good place to look for local farmers and rancher.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 8 months ago

Agnostick,Rarely have a encountered a person as gullible and naive as you.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 8 months ago

So the Merc wants higher profits, and the Merc's suppliers want higher profits. And they got the Journal World to cover this as news?

notajayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

">>> According to Mapquest, Salina is @ 140 miles west of Lawrence. Does that count? Abilene? Topeka? Manhattan? Kansas City? St. Joe MO?"Well, since I can't figure out WTF you're talking about in asking 'Does that count,' I really can't say. But tell us: Do you think the million-and-a-half people in the KC metro can survive on food from a 200 mile radius? How about the 20 million or so in the NYC metro? Detroit? Chicago? Minneapolis? Denver? It's a pretty big world outside Kansas, aggie, you oughta' see some of it sometime.">>> Anybody bother to do a price check? What's the cost of a bunch of locally-grown spinach or lettuce, compared to that 5 oz. bag of Fresh Express? Anybody bother to check?"Since I don't buy either one, I really don't care. What's a head of locally grown lettuce or bunch of spinach cost compared to what's on the shelves of the produce section at Checkers or Price Chopper, aggie? Anybody bother to check?">>> So, it's a nationwide promotion? 60+ other grocery stores?"Wow.Out of the 85,000 grocery stores in the United States. Anyone check what the percentage is there? (Pssst: It's less than one-tenth of one percent.)">>> "Other Lawrence groceries":?? Who could that be? Hhhhmmmmm:"Yep, even at Checkers. Of course, they don't get a lot of shelf space - maybe because nobody buys it - maybe because it costs twice as much ...">>> Anybody know what mpg is on a produce hauler??"Anybody know how many heads of lettuce, how many bushels of oranges, how many bunches of grapes those produce haulers haul? At an average 6 mpg (see, somebody did know), that produce costs about $1,100 to ship - of course, that cost is distributed among the 30,000 lbs or so of the contents of the truck. What's that work out to - anyone know?"Hey, if you think vegetable work is beneath you, I'm not surprised. You just personified that argument floating around: about illegal immigrants "doing the jobs Americans won't do.""So you're saying what - that this will be good for the local economy because it will attract more illegal immigrants?"Like shooting fish in a barrel:!"I think you managed to miss the entire barrel, aggie.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

"The co-op is proposing a two-week diet where people consume 80 percent of their meals from food that is grown or produced locally. The Merc defines local as within a 200-mile radius of Lawrence."2 weeks80 %200 miles( 2 much math for my taste )

pace 9 years, 8 months ago

I like fresh food and I like local growers, so why not? If you want to eat something that traveled thousands of miles to be sold to you cheap, one should wonder what went into the care of the product. Tomatoes picked tennis ball green and gassed or picked red and cut into large slices and put on fresh bread?

BigPrune 9 years, 8 months ago

Was the lead in story about some girl who supposedly ate local yocal food for 100 days and earned an A+, and in a completely coincidental and totally unrelated story the Merc suggests local food for 2 weeks?

mmiller 9 years, 8 months ago

Can you say Product Placement? This is not news. Wonder how much they paid for this story?!

blessed3x 9 years, 8 months ago

I read the article the other day about the KU student that ate only locally grown foods for a year. My question is haven't we developed this wonderful system of transportation so that we can not only enjoy foods that cannot be grown locally, but also benefit nutritionally from a varied diet. If we all had to consume foods that were locally grown, how about citrus in Kansas? I like bananas and mango and kiwi. I don't think they are grown in Tongie or Pomona or the community garden. I understand full well that the idea is to buy locally first and my family picks up most of our produce from the farmer's market and places like Pome on the Range down south, but lets not get carried away and step ourselves right back into the 1800's.

notajayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Agnostick (Anonymous) says: "If more people buy locally-grown produce, that would (in simplest economic terms) require more locally-grown food. More farms require more labor, which means more jobs."Yep, more high-paying jobs like vegetable pickers - that's just what we need. And what about the jobs involved in preparing, packaging, and transporting food not only from other places to here, but from here to other places?And, as someone else mentioned, while a relatively small town like Lawrence, surrounded for miles by farmland, might be able to get most of its food locally, it's pretty unrealistic for larger cities, especially those in less hospitable climates. But hey, if it makes you feel better, feel free to consume all the locally produced lobster, crab, shrimp, tuna, oranges, grapefruit, coconuts, sugarcane, etc., that you can get.I also agree with those who see this as more of an advertisement than news.

Stephen Roberts 9 years, 8 months ago

Great concept. besides the Merc, where else can you buy food than is produced less than 200 miles away? Farms ?Great marketing concept. I won't participate though.

basil 9 years, 8 months ago

Why all the vitriol? The "locavore" movement is nationwide, and an outgrowth of a growing awareness of the economic, health and environmental drawbacks of monoculture, including the repression of biodiversity and of local family farming, and the obscuring of the way our food is produced and transported. You could do this challenge with food from any number of places and avoid the Merc completely, if you hate the place so much. Local Burger. Casbah. Checkers. Farmer's Market. Rolling Prairie. The fact that people don't know this proves that we have lost connection with the systems, economic and otherwise, that sustain us. And 80% allows for you to eat food from elsewhere (e.g., lobster, a staple of my daily diet). This isn't about going back to the stone age or forcing people to do anything. It's just about thinking about food and supporting local business and sustainable agriculture.Phew. I think there are some medications on the market that will keep those knees from jerking so badly.

Josh 9 years, 8 months ago

Marion,The garden is not polluted at all. Three buildings burnt down on those two lots in 1989. The building that burned down where the garden currently is did not house any toxins. Additionally, the building on the garden lot had a basement which was filled with normal old soil when it burnt down. We also brought in good top soil for all the raised beds that we plant in.

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