Spend the first week in October celebrating Ohio-grown food

Ohioans grab it from the grocery store, the drive-thru window and the corner cafe. We enjoy quick bites on the go, lunches at work, home-cooked dinners and long meals out among friends.

Eating is one of our common threads - food is everywhere.

Yet Ohioans hardly eat anything from Ohio.

Though agriculture remains the Buckeye State's biggest industry, only about one to three percent of the food we consume is actually grown here. Ohioans spend roughly $41 billion each year on food, and nearly all of it pays for goods grown, packaged and shipped from somewhere else.

That's a problem, insists nonprofit educational group Local Matters, but each of us can help to fix it.

Starting Oct. 2, the organization will kick off Local Foods Week, a celebration of the great things grown in Ohio and how to enjoy them. Events will include a festival at the North Market, a grilled-cheese competition and numerous culinary tours.

Throughout the week, the group will ask Columbus to participate in the Eat Local Challenge. Community members can pledge to visit a farmers market, order from a locally minded restaurant or try an Ohio food - simple ways to enjoy the Buckeye bounty.

"We wanted to put it to the community to make a bigger commitment to local food," said Todd Mills, director of development and marketing for Local Matters. "Food is a personal thing. We're just asking folks to make the pledge to eat local."

The locavore ethos has gained momentum during the past year, leading to more farmers markets, community gardens and local produce sections at grocery stores. Buying local has been shown to boost the regional economy, reduce the carbon footprint caused by shipping and packaging, and provide consumers with more nutritious foods.

Local Foods Week is a way for Columbus residents to hop on the trend, dig deep into what Ohio has to offer and put a catchy concept into action.

"We wanted to make it approachable for everyone," Mills added. "We're trying to get more people involved and build the audience, the base of people who support this."

Local Love

Eating from Ohio will be easy during Local Foods Week, a celebration organized by nonprofit education group Local Matters. Events run Oct. 2-8 and include these five not to miss.

Harvest Festival

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2

North Market, Arena District

Cooking demonstrations, a pie contest, live music and free goodies will be offered at the city's local-food hub.

Grilled Cheese Throwdown

6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2

MoJoe Lounge, Short North

Columbus chefs will use local breads, cheeses and toppings to concoct unique versions of the down-home dish. Tickets cost $5.

Local Matters Benefit Happy Hour

5:30-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4

Alana's Food and Wine, Campus

Chef Alana Shock will host a private get-together to show off the season's best noshes and vino. Tickets cost $25.

Restaurant Night

Tuesday, Oct. 5

Various locations

Eateries around town will feature special menu items with ingredients from area farms.

Harvest Ball

8-12 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8

Station 67, Franklinton

A busy week comes to a close with live music, drinking and appetizers featuring local ingredients. Tickets cost $25.