Saturday, November 15, 2008

Food Snobbery Cuts Both Ways

Today I was reading a critique of locovorious grocery shopping -- the idea that it's more environmentally sound, as well as healthier, to eat locally grown, seasonal foods. The argument was that transportation costs associated with food are not all that significant in the grand scheme of things; and that it's often more cost- and resource-effective to import food from other places.

To which I respond...well, duh.

Most people I know who support local/sustainable agriculture understand this. And most other locovores I know -- all of them, in fact -- do not have a knee-jerk aversion to either "foreign" or mass-produced/marketed food per se. Our chicken chili today may have locally grown beans in it, but it also contains regular supermarket chicken thighs, tomatillo salsa from Mexico, a bottle of Molson's from our neighbor to the north and seasonings with variously exotic origins. We're eating it with brand-name fat-free sour cream.

Got a problem with that? I don't.

Locovorious/wholefoods/organic foodies are often labeled as elitists who are trying to deprive ordinary working folks of inexpensive mass-market food. Hey -- wait a minute. I'm an ordinary working folk. I make less money at my full-time public sector job than a teacher or a secretary or any number of other jobs. I drive a seven-year-old car.

Nonetheless, I care about what I eat. I care about nutrition. I care about ingesting pollutants. I care about the welfare of my farming neighbors. I care about the planet. thinking and reading and making purchasing decisions independent of marketers make me an "elitist"?

Does it make me more of an elitist than persons who, having attained a certain food sophistication by virtue of their background, education and experience in life, and who most probably make many of the same food choices I do, seem to assume that unmindful shopping and eating is good enough for those other people over there? You know: "My children's school is participating in a wonderful garden-to-cafeteria program. But I'm sure your kid's bologna sandwich is just fine too."

I'm perhaps naive enough to want to live in a society where fresh local foods are available to as many people as possible, at reasonable prices; a society where we can all interact directly with the people who grow some of our food, and where small farmers and market gardeners can make a living wage by developing local customer bases.

That doesn't sound terribly elitist to me.


Teri said...

the "cost" in $$ may not be more (duh) but the true cost, including environmental damage both from transporting and from industrial farming and monoculture is much higher. There's a 15 minute video at that might be worth watching!

Farmgirl Susan said...

Speaking of food, are you the lutheranchik who entered my 2-pound chanterelle giveaway contest? Because if you are, you won! I put up the announcement post last Thursday and have been waiting to hear from you - couldn't contact you because your blogger profile isn't public. Tracked you down by good old google. That is, I hope I tracked you down. If this is indeed you, can you please email me (farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com). Your beautiful fresh chanterelles await! : )