Whole Foods' "Local" signs make it easier for well-heeled shoppers to opt for locally-grown produce, but for Angelenos who can't afford to shop at Whole Foods, locavoring can sound like an environmental practice that's far out of reach. But eating local doesn't have to be expensive according to Maribel Diaz, a single mother and the Community Educator for Hunger Action LA, a nonprofit that works to end hunger and promote healthy eating in Los Angeles.
"If it's in season, you're going to get it for a very reasonable price," says Diaz about shopping at farmers markets for local produce. Of course, penny pinchers may not be able to afford everything they'd like at the farmers market. "Sometimes I can't afford them all and end up at Food for Less," says Maribel, who also frequents the 99 Cents Only Stores.
But at least partial-locavoring's possible, even on a food stamp budget. Those with cars have more flexibility, since "some markets that are more reasonable than others," Diaz says. The LA Medical Center Farmers' Market at Barnsdall Art Park often offers great deals according to Diaz -- especially when combined with Hunger Action LA's Veggie Voucher Bonus Program (PDF), which gives an extra $5 to food stamp and other aid recipients who spend $5 of their own money or benefits at a participating produce or farmers market.
And tonight, hunger and local food in L.A. will take center stage at The California Endowment, which is hosting "Consuming Health: Local Innovations in Accessing Healthy Food" -- a panel discussion that will "highlight local efforts underway to make the healthy choice the easy choice everywhere." Hunger Action LA's director Frank Tamborello will be on the panel, along with other experts and activists tackling food justice issues in L.A.
In the meantime, see how much you can save with Diaz's frugal shopping tips at your local farmers market -- then try Diaz's healthy, wallet-friendly recipe for Cheese Veggie Quesadilla:
Cheese Veggie Quesadilla
queso cotija, crumbled or grated
queso fresco, crumbled
Finely chop up all the vegetables. Saute in a pan, letting the tomato juice steam the veggies for about 3 minutes.
Throw a tortilla in a warm flat pan, then throw the cooked veggies onto the tortilla. Top with cheeses and let warm.
Fold tortilla in half and serve.
For an even healthier vegan version, skip the cheeses. Instead, chop up firm tofu into fine pieces and toss it in while cooking the vegetables.