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The pressure of college coursework and the “Isla Vista lifestyle” make it tough to eat a lot of local produce and fish, but Sam Nusbaum, a fourth year UCSB student and Isla Vista resident, wanted to give it a try. In October he took the 30-day Eat Local Challenge by only eating food grown and produced in Santa Barbara County.

When he saw that CEC and Edible Santa Barbara were giving away an “Eat Local” prize basket, he tossed his name into the hat and won. The basket included a produce box from Plow to Porch, Farmers’ Market tokens, gift certificates to local spots (Goodland Kitchen, Telegraph Brewery , Sustainable Vine Wine Tours), and an abundance of other locally-sourced items.

One of the items was a month of seafood from Community Seafood, a community-supported fishery that provides weekly shares of local, sustainably-caught seafood in Santa Barbara. Sam didn’t know about the program before the challenge and ended up going every week to pick up his share.

Sam’s diet is largely pescatarian/vegetarian. He cut out red meat a while ago, but makes a few exceptions here and there. (During the challenge, he admits that he did go to In-N-Out with his roommates to celebrate a birthday, but for the most part, has been able to stick to the challenge.) Since he relies heavily on fish for protein, he plans to utilize Community Seafood even now that his 30-day challenge has ended.

Meal prep with local ingredients wasn’t too much different than usual, with a few exceptions. Instead of buying fruits and vegetables pre-cut in a bag at the store, he cut them up himself. He also reduced portion sizes to make certain meals last throughout the week. Not being able to shop in bulk at places like Costco was his greatest hurdle, because he used to get all of his produce in bulk. “I eat a lot. Even though it’s pretty healthy stuff, it’s a lot of food,” he said. Some of the items in the Eat Local basket – like the spiced almonds – gave him something to snack on.

Reflecting back on the month, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to make an exception for herbs and spices. If he had prepared in advance, he could have been growing some of his own. Although his Isla Vista neighborhood isn’t the most conducive for backyard gardens, he’s hoping to grow a fresh herb garden in his window sill.

The Eat Local Challenge has put things into perspective for Sam. He never realized what he took for granted, and used to buy items like milk without thinking. Once he began the challenge, he started thinking about which products are actually produced and became more aware of how far certain items travel to get on the shelf. Sam’s next step is checking out local breweries and wineries.

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