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We have known for years that food choice is directly linked to our overall health. Eating a simpler, plant-rich diet and reducing the consumption of fats and oils are two easy ways to improve your health. Eating local is another.

Proponents of eating local tout numerous benefits to the practice, such as better-tasting food and a reduced carbon footprint. Further, eating local supports sustainable farming and fosters a stronger economy.

The Complex Flavors of Local Food

When we talk of local food, fresh fruits and veggies typically come to mind, or all-natural baked goods sold at a farmer’s market. But eating local encompasses so much more. Your favorite long-standing mom-and-pop diner, for example, is technically local food.

And some locally owned restaurants have expanded over the years, a few even evolving into multi-million dollar franchises. Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop is a prime example of local food that made it big.

Unfortunately, the Jimmy John’s name has been smeared in recent years, prompting many loyal customers to disavow the franchise altogether, despite the company’s commitment to sustainable practices and use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

The story of Jimmy John’s perfectly illustrates how, when it comes to healthy lifestyle choices, there’s often more to consider than just food origin.

The History and Legacy of “Freaky Fast” Food

It’s hard to believe, but according to the sandwich chain’s founder himself, there’s a Jimmy John’s in 43 U.S. states. The usual excluded parties, Alaska and Hawaii, are left out of the fun, as is a large chunk of our country’s Northeastern corner: You can’t chow down on a Turkey Tom in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.

Despite the company’s nationwide ubiquity, Jimmy John’s boasts humble, Midwest beginnings. Founder Jimmy John Liautaud opened his first sandwich shop in Charleston, Illinois, in 1983. In those early days, there were four sandwiches on the menu. And at just $2.10 per sandwich, Jimmy John’s won the favor of countless hungry, budget-conscious college students at Charleston’s Eastern Illinois University, who were perhaps seeking a healthier break from typical fast food.

Ten years later, Liautaud’s dream of franchising became a reality. Even as Jimmy John’s stores popped up across the U.S., Liautaud remained steadfast in his commitment to using local produce and baking fresh bread at every location, every day.

Yet that didn’t save Liautaud from the biggest challenge of his career — political controversy.

Big Game and Legal Troubles

In a 2015 Chicago Tribune interview, Liautaud claimed that he didn’t want his namesake company to be the biggest franchise, just “the best.” His declaration came in the wake of the biggest roadbump the franchise had ever experienced: pervasive backlash regarding Liautaud’s penchant for trophy hunting, followed by what essentially became a widespread boycott of the franchise.

The unpleasant smudge on Jimmy John’s reputation came when images of Liautaud proudly posing with big game kills surfaced in 2011. In many countries, trophy hunting is not illegal per se, but it’s certainly frowned upon, especially in liberal-leaning college towns such as Champaign, Illinois, where Jimmy John’s is headquartered.

While Jimmy John’s stayed true to its origins regarding ingredients and overall business plan, the opportunity to eat healthy, locally sourced food wasn’t enough to stop formerly loyal customers from speaking out against Liautaud and his namesake shop.

For what it’s worth, Liautaud told the Chicago Tribune that he no longer hunts big game. And there are nearly 3,000 Jimmy John’s stores across the U.S., each of which serves sandwiches made fresh to order.

Conclusion

Eating mindfully means paying attention to where your food comes from. Your daily eating habits likewise come into play — Adopting a healthful lifestyle means significantly reducing your intake of processed foods, sugars, and oils. And, as we have seen in the case of Jimmy John’s, your personal beliefs may also have a profound effect on food choice.

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