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 counter-productive 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 business most certainly helps us to support a local economy and keep money invested in our communities. BUT this does not mean supporting your local Duane Reade by buying a snickers bar along with your insulin shots 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 far bigger than your dream of helping influence a food system when your need for “Grass Fed” beef is imported from Australia or you need 15 packing facilities to get your sustainable chicken to a secure location (hence the salmonella outbreaks). The US can produce enough Grass Fed Beef for these bigger operations, but these operations must invest their money in 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.” This is said all while the CEOs of these franchises continue to make personal financial choices to meet their well over paid 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, especially when discussing food… it is also not viable to say support your “local pizzeria or baker” when both are not sourcing their ingredients locally themselves. Most 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 that business’s own economic sustainability. This will not help influence the local economy but will instead simply 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 you 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 these 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. For whatever reason this may be, most often it is simply because of the cost of goods. That is $365 million a year lost for a single state, just in beef. To further emphasize this point, NYC is constantly being bailed out by the state because industrial expansion brings about more schools, police, utilities, and popular franchise conglomerate shops to coincide with the influx of house and lot folks. It is an economy that is very unhealthy simply because tax burdens and demand go up & unfortunately the local agriculturist and 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 tries to offer these folks subsidies for farm land, because they couldn’t survive without it as peoples’ demand is geared more towards cheaper affordable foods.
Here is the problem: Commercial rents are high to meet the infrastructural and marketing demand of the influx of people moving to a more convenient and “less expensive” area. Even though these are areas are always and will always be under gentrification of some sort, their overheads are so high thy must limit their spending somewhere. Therefore, minimum wages are hard to meet for them and why they use the less expensive unhealthy food options.
Solution: Offer alternatives on their menu using fresh locally sourced ingredients, at a price that the patron can decide on whether it’s worth the difference. Find an alternative way of spending your money as a business owner. Spend Less on aesthetics and location and more on quality where then you can add a service that increases added value of your products like delivery or tastings. Sacrifice your ROI and work harder towards improving your community instead of just being another food option on the strip. It is not until the demand of the people begins to shift will these foods become more affordable for even the less affluent where it will really start to affect the health of its people and economy.
People would say that the city is much harder to fulfill with locally sustainably grown foods and they are most certainly correct but 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.
For now, I’ll leave this open for interpretation, questions, and comments. Know your food! Know your farmer! Support Local growers! It can change so many aspects with we wish to see change.
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