Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Increasing industrial food prices could be a good thing for local, sustainable food

Must reading from today's New York Times for anyone interested in local, sustainable eating:

As the price of fossil fuels and commodities like grain climb, nutritionally questionable, high-profit ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup will, too. As a result, Cokes are likely to get smaller and cost more. Then, the argument goes, fewer people will drink them.

And if American staples like soda, fast-food hamburgers and frozen dinners don’t seem like such a bargain anymore, the American eating public might turn its attention to ingredients like local fruits and vegetables, and milk and meat from animals that eat grass. It turns out that those foods, already favorites of the critics of industrial food, have also dodged recent price increases.

Higher food costs, [locavores, small growers, activist chefs and others] say, could push pasture-raised milk and meat past its boutique status, make organic food more accessible and spark a national conversation about why inexpensive food is not really such a bargain after all.

Obviously no one would wish increasing food prices to cause true hunger in America, which economist and Pace University professor Robert Parks called a possibility last week in the Christian Science Monitor. But to spark a national debate on the true costs of cheap food? The loss of the dollar burger might be worth it.


Anonymous said...

this is a sign of relief for the local movement. Unfortunately it negatively impacts our society as well. According to SecondHarvest, in 2006 35.5 million Americans lived in food insecure households; these numbers include children and adults. Increasing prices on industrialized foods are good because people that know the importance of eating local and its benefits will consume less of the bad stuff (coke and $1 burgers). Poverty and hunger are strongly correlated, therefore those that survive on McDonald’s, Tyson’s chicken strips and other processed food, will suffer the most. If they don’t have access to cheap, not-good-for-your-body food, they’ll fall into the low income- no food for the family hole. There isn't even a safety net. One thing that has to be improved is the education for these families. As a community, we have to make an effort to share the knowledge with everyone.

It really is starting to feel like we're driving on the wrong side of the highway, going 75 mph without seatbelts.

valereee said...

I think you're right about the educational aspect of the problem. There's no reason for any US household to be food-insecure, even if they're dependent on food stamps for their entire food budget. It's cooking skills (and possibly basic kitchen tools), consumer skills, and planning skills that are lacking -- food stamps can provide enough healthy calories, but it requires knowledge to get there.

We need to teach people how to plan, shop and how to cook.

LA Farm Girl said...

I read the article and your blog and others and I must say, I have such mixed feelings about this. I do agree that we need to educate people about how they can eat healthy and affordable food, but these discussions always leave me wondering what the real issues are we might be missing.

For instance, a professor at my Alma Mater, UC Santa Cruz recently wrote a great book called, Shopping Our Way To Safety: How We Changed From Protecting the Environment to Proecting Ourselves," in which he says that we are buying local, organic, etc. in a way to protect or quarantine ourselves, taking care of ourselves, but not the movement, and its not as effective as a social movement. Another idea that makes me go "hmmm."

I also wanted to say Congratulations on being named as one of Cincinatti's Best Blogs! Way to go! I read you all the time out here in LA!

LA Farm Girl (aka Judi)

valereee said...

Thanks, Judi!

I'll have to see if I can find that book, because I'm not sure I understand why eating more locally -couldn't- be effective as a social movement.

vudutu said...

Great dialog, anon, will they consume less bad stuff or will the low cost of mass production drive them to it? Or towards better local consumption. Val this blog is one great resource toward educating Americans to better eating!