Green Green Room Interview: Lee Stafford

Lee Stafford assists two volunteer bar tenders at the ELC finale party. Every year, New Orleans kicks off the summer with the Eat Local Challenge: An opportunity for anyone who signs up (Locavores) to learn a thing or two about where their food comes from— by only eating products grown or caught within 200 miles of the city.  Immediately altering your diet for a month may sound like a stretch, but Locavores have opportunities to go on tours of eligible markets and farms; enroll in cooking classes that teach them just how to handle their local ingredients; and get in touch with their competitive side with a long-term scavenger hunt.  In honor of the challenge’s three-year anniversary, its founder and coordinator Lee Stafford has taken the time to answer…

How he became environmentally conscious:

From reading Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

What would surprise us about his work:

The Eat Local Challenge (ELC)  is very straightforward, with steps necessary to reaching your goal.  A by-product, however, is a measurable health improvement: At the start of this year's challenge, willing Locavores had their weight, cholesterol and blood pressure screened to be compared at the end of the month.  The recently announced winner is New Orleans resident Rachel Williams, whose 30 days of local foods (rather than processed) has lowered her cholesterol and triglyceride counts.  She received an award of a thirty-dollar gift certificate to Hollygrove Market.  This part of the challenge will run again next year.  Due to its success in 2013, however, we will be promoting it more ahead of time.

How he has worked with Global Green USA:

Global Green has been a sponsor of ELC for 2 years in a row, and we have both promoted events that lower one’s carbon footprint and that promote management of our natural resources.  We are excited about working more closely with Global Green in 2014 to organize more carbon footprint lowering campaigns, specifically ones that calculate the amount of carbon that is reduced during ELC.

Who his heroes are:

All the members of my family.

What his recent work successes or accomplishments have been:

Working with a team of volunteers and interns to organize and orchestrate the 2013 Challenge.  This year we saw a 25% increase in participants, mainly due to the increased local food movement across the country.   These days, people are much more curious about where food comes from, and at the end of the day ELC is an awareness campaign.

What his ideal global, green change would be: 

I would love to see 5000 people sign up to do the New Orleans Eat Local Challenge, and see the challenge itself spread to other cities all over the world.  I see this happening by us continuing down the same path: Getting people in New Orleans to sign up, and hoping that it spreads.  We try to keep the challenge fun with things like scavenger hunts, and keeping it completely non-political.  There are some who think it’s a hostile campaign about about agribusiness, and it’s not... it's an opportunity for people to learn about food.


Stay tuned for news on any future collaboration between Global Green and New Orleans’s original Locavore!