HOW local can you go?

Is it possible to not only survive but have an interesting and varied diet only on local food?

That’s what Southampton couple Nick Bardsley and Milena Büchs have set themselves the challenging of finding out.

This month they will only be buying food that has been farmed, caught or foraged from within 30 miles of Southampton.

Both members of local environmental movement Southampton Transition, which aims to respond to the problems of climate change and depleting world oil supplies, they have been eating more and more local food for a while and decided to take things a step further.

“We’ve been trying to reduce our food miles for a while and we wanted to see how far we could push it,” says Nick, a lecturer in climate change economics at the University of Reading.

“We’ve heard a lot about people doing similar food challenges in America and I read a book about a chef in Wales trying to do a 30-mile menu so we decided on that as our target.”

The couple intend to use the month not just as a challenge but also to learn about what food is available locally as well as where the gaps may be and encourage more people to eat local food, via their blog.

“As well as climate change there are issues with food security and peak oil and if we need more local resilience in future when it comes to food it’s important to know what local expertise there is.”

Milena, a lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Southampton, adds: “I wanted to see how low a carbon diet we could eat. I think there’s so much confusion about low carbon food – there’s lots of discussion about if it’s better to go organic or seasonal or vegan but a purely vegan diet might not be as low carbon as a vegetarian seasonal one using local produce.”

The couple are only a few days into their challenge but already some issues are beginning to emerge. Milena can’t get by without a cup of tea a day which, of course, isn’t grown locally, and some common foods are proving difficult to find.

“We’ve found local flour and milk – although we can only get that from the farmers’ markets – but we haven’t found any grain so once our museli runs out we won’t have any more,” says Milena.

Normally they rarely eat meat as it has quite a high carbon footprint but they are struggling to find local sources of protein.

“For the challenge we want to look into how the meat is produced so is the local meat fed by grains, etc, coming from overseas? If this is the case maybe it’s not a very good option or is there free range meat which is rough fed or free range and game? That could be an option if we feel we can’t get enough protein from elsewhere.”

As the month goes on and they learn where good sources of local food are the challenge should get easier.

“It takes more planning at the moment to eat local food, but not necessarily more time,” says Nick.

“At the weekend I cycled to Sunnyfields Farm in Totton to do our shopping. I don’t know how long people usually take to go to the supermarket but it only took me half an hour each way which I don’t think was too long.”

Follow Nick and Milena’s food challenge by visiting and clicking on The Eat Southampton Challenge under ‘blogs’.

• See Eat Local Wednesdays next week for an update on their progress.