By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Aug 22, 2009 at 10:09 AM

Just when you think you've got a handle on neologisms like "staycation" and "recessionista" -- which inevitably brought us "blingrupt" -- we've got another big one to dissect: locavore.

Unlike an herbivore, a locavore doesn't necessarily restrict his diet based on the whether what he's eating once had a pulse. Instead, origin takes precedence here. Locavores are interested in eating food that is locally produced, not shipped from the ends of the earth to reach their plates.

The Locavore movement isn't brand new. In fact, locavore was 2007's word of the year for the Oxford American Dictionary, which is the same year Milwaukee held its first East Local Challenge. By 2008, there was an official Web site, and in a week, the collaboration between the Urban Ecology Center, Slow Food, Fondy Farmers market and Outpost Natural Foods will embark on its third year.

During the first two weeks of the month, Sept. 1-12, the challenge rallies Milwaukeeans to make more conscious decisions about what they consume and where it comes from. Most food travels an average of 15,000 miles from farm to fork, and when that number reduces, so does its carbon footprint on the planet.

"Living in a globalized world allows us to eat any food from anywhere, during any season, produced by people we don't know," says Jamie Ferschinger, community program coordinator for the Urban Ecology Center.

"Yet there are so many benefits to eating food that is produced locally by people in our community. Eating locally benefits the local economy, local farmers, the community, the environment and a person's health."

If you're not entirely sure how to improve your local eating practices, the Eat Local Resource Fair at the Urban Ecology Center this Sunday, Aug. 23 is a great place to begin. From 1 to 3 p.m., the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Pl., becomes a resource center for the local food movement as members from The Outpost and Slow Food help you get geared up for the challenge.

Chef and Restaurant Supported Agriculture founder Dave Swanson will also be on hand to discuss eating locally and share resources. You can watch cooking demos, exchange recipes and get inspired to alter your traditional buying habits.

The Eat Local Milwaukee Web site is another valuable resource for local grocery stores, area restaurants that use local ingredients, menu ideas and recipes, as well as recommended reading and more on eating local.

"We are not asking people to change their entire diet, but to make small, thoughtful changes that will ultimately benefit their health, the community and the environment," adds Ferschinger.

Other events include:

Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7

People in communities all over the country will sit down to share a meal with their neighbors and kids. This National Eat-In will send a clear message to Congress: It's time to provide America's children with real food at school. For more information, visit

Friends of real food
Wednesday, Sept 9

Be a part of the monthly gathering and potluck from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Urban Ecology Center to celebrate the Eat Local Challenge.

Local Food Festival
Saturday, Sept 12

Head down to the first Milwaukee Local Food Festival at the Fondy Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to enjoy activities for all ages.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”