As new businesses continue to emerge and current ones evolve to bring about more transparency and sustainability to the masses; it only seems practical that I write about this very important topic. Especially when we are talking about the world of food, being misinformed about what is considered local can be very counterproductive and even harmful to our health and environment.
First off, it is important to discuss this term LOCAL. So why Local? There are many reasons people are hopping on the local train. Have we become fed up with large conglomerates influencing government policy? Have we become tired of poor health destroying our families and friends because cheaper foods have become affordable commodities? Are we tired of financial wealth not being evenly distributed amongst the residents in our communities? Are we looking for tax breaks or subsidies?
It is most certainly true that supporting local businesses helps us to support a local economy and keep money invested in our communities. On the contrary, this does not mean supporting your local Duane Reade by buying a snickers bar or new "healthy snack" along with an insulin shot and bottle of "smart water." Nor does it mean eating at your local Chipotle, Krispy Kreme, or Starbucks because they advertise to be more responsible than your local McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts. These are all large conglomerate packed franchises continuing to denature our food, land, and economic systems. Is Chipotle a healthier alternative? Yes, but you are not realizing your dream of helping influence a food system when your need for grass fed beef is imported from Australia or you need 15 large breeding / packing facilities to get your sustainable chicken to a secure location (hence the salmonella outbreaks).
The US can produce enough grass fed beef and pasture raised poultry for bigger operations, but these same operations must first invest their money into education and helping transform the amount of land in this country being destroyed by the heavily influenced industrial agricultural giants. The question is, will they sacrifice their overly indulgent well-being to influence quality and integrity to the end consumer? Their argument will always be “change takes time.” While this is said, CEOs and Owners of these franchises continue to make personal financial choices to meet their salaries. We can talk about personal financial disparity and its burden on our food system in another blog session.
In comparison, but on a much smaller scale, it is also not plausible to say support our “local pizzeria or baker” when both are not sourcing their ingredients locally themselves. Most of them do not even source their ingredients from the US. If they are buying flour or processed foods & oils from non-local producers then supporting them means nothing for the economy other than simply supporting that business. This will not help influence the local economy but will instead continue to help influence the same industrial agricultural giants burdening the health & financial sustainability of our communities; as it has done so since the industrial revolution heavily burdened our capitalistic purity.
To support them as a business is one thing, but to say we are supporting the local economy is by far another. Since agriculture can have the largest positive influential impact on any community or state, not supporting the local food producers declines the economic sustainability of the state. E.G. “The state of Virginia loses just about $1 million per day in balance of trade deficit on Grass Finished Beef. Balance of Trade meaning, when what they are producing in state is not being purchased because their local shops/restaurants prefer to utilize beef from out of state/country. For whatever reason this may be, more often than not it is simply because of the cost of goods. That is $365 million a year lost for a single state, and that is just in the beef market.
To further emphasize this point, NYC is constantly being bailed out by the state because industrial expansion brings about more schools, police, hospitals, utilities, and popular franchise conglomerate shops and restaurants to coincide with the influx of residents. It is an economy that is very unhealthy simply because tax burdens and demand go up & unfortunately the local surrounding large acre land owners are ALWAYS forced to pick up the tab (Joel Salatins “You Can Farm” pg. 34). There is a reason our government offers these folks subsidies and tax breaks for owning farm land. It is because they couldn’t survive without it as people's demand is geared more towards convenience and cheaper affordable foods.
People would say that any city is much harder to fulfill with locally sustainably grown foods and they are most certainly correct. It is only because we have preferred to pay for a global system of food production making it harder for the small family farms to compete and because 95% of us eat proportionally way more than we need to survive and even thrive on. This can change and we can be the change.
Here is the biggest problem: Commercial rents are high to meet the infrastructural and marketing demand of the influx of people moving to a more urban area. Even though these areas will always be under gentrification, their overheads are so high that they must limit their spending elsewhere. Therefore, shortcuts are made; minimum wages remain the norm; & they use the least expensive food options.
Solution: Offer alternatives using only fresh locally sourced ingredients at a price that the patron can decide. Find an alternative way of spending your money as a business owner. Spend Less on aesthetics and location and more on quality instead adding a service that increases the value of your products: delivery, tastings, catering. Sacrifice your ROI and work harder towards improving your community instead of simply being another food option competing on the strip.
It is not until the majority of the demand of the people begins to shift will these foods then become more affordable and available for even the less affluent communities. Here is where it will really start to affect the health of a communities people and its local economy.
Know your food! Know your farmer! Support Local growers! It can change so many aspects with we wish to see change.
Here is a great article about just some of the health benefits of eating local food for those interested. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-local-food