Dubai resident's year-long pledge to eat only local produce

Phil Dunnis on a mission to raise awareness about the importance of food security

A Dubai resident promises to eat only food that has been grown in his neighbourhood for a year.

Phil Dunn, 49, a Canadian landscape architect who lives in The Sustainable City, embarked on his 365-day mission to raise awareness about the importance of food security.

He has so far spent a month eating food sourced exclusively from his neighbourhood, including fresh chicken eggs, sweet potato leaves, onions and fish farmed from one of the community biodomes.

I've been doing it for a month now and am starting to realise it's hard to do it alone but I rely on help from friends and neighbours

He said he was already feeling healthier and slimmer, but admitted he had to make a few exceptions to the home-grown rule.

"I won't be able to get things like olive oil, salt, grains, because they're not grown in the area, so I have some simple rules in place where I can barter with residents for such items," he told The National.

"I've been collecting wood from construction sites and I am making furniture and wooden plant pots to support urban farming and giving them to residents.

“I’ve been doing it for a month now and I am starting to realise it's hard to do it alone; it’s definitely more of a social project in that I rely on help from friends and neighbours.”

When travelling out of the community, Mr Dunn said he would eat whatever was grown locally and catch fish from local waters where possible.

When invited out to dinner, he will use the opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of living in a community that grows a lot of local produce.

Mr Dunn said that for the sustainable project, he prepares everything from scratch, including gutting and filleting meat and fish.

“So far, I haven’t eaten any meat and only a little bit of fish, because it’s been a challenge having to prep the animal myself,” he said.

“I’ve never done anything like that before and it takes a lot of getting used to.

“When it is just put on our plates we don’t actually think about where the food has come from.”

In his own garden, Mr Dunn grows eggplants, chillies, lettuces, sweet potatoes, radishes and beets.

Before the challenge, the father of two said he was a big meat eater and not a fan of vegetables.

“That was definitely an adjustment going from meals with hardly any vegetables on the plate to meals produced solely from vegetables, but I feel so good about it,” he said.

"So far, I have lost six kilograms and I am adjusting to life with little to no meat in my diet, but this isn't some extreme challenge to shed weight.

“By the end of the year-long pledge, I want to have inspired people to think more about what they eat and create this idea of a circular food economy, which promotes organic, healthy food and reduces waste.

"The tide here is slowly shifting towards growing more local produce and that is especially important today, given that we are in the midst of a pandemic."

Health professionals in the community monitor Mr Dunn’s health and will track it throughout the year to ensure he gets enough nutrition.