In a recent Farm Forum post on Maryland FarmLINK, I mentioned a new book “The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet” which dismissed the local food movement as an upper middle class food movement. Of course, the book’s title is intended to counter Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” which advances the notion that folks should try to find local food sources because they are fresher, you get to know the farmer and how he/she is raising the food, and it supports the local economy.
One of the key criticisms in the new book about the local food movement is that only the upper middle class can afford local food. I dismiss that notion on three grounds. First, the main reason that food can travel thousands of miles to your table and be cheaper is because of government food and/or energy subsidies. Second, many people can raise vegetables and/or fruit gardens, in pots, on stoops, etc. regardless of income at a much lower cost. For many, it is even possible to raise a few chickens. Third, more groups are reaching out to help others with limited income to have access to local healthy food.
A case in point is Farming 4 Hunger, a non-profit in Southern Maryland with a vision to raise local fresh vegetables for area food pantries. In their first week, volunteers picked 9,200 lbs of sweet corn which was distributed to local food pantries. Other people in the region have formed gleaning groups or they have raised extra food in their gardens to share with those who need it.
The Southern Maryland Community Food Council is a new organization formed to “Bring together diverse stakeholders to integrate the aspects of the food system (production, distribution, access, consumption, processing and recycling) in order to sustain and enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of Southern Maryland.” You will be seeing a new website and mission statements in the next few months.
In other regions, communities have formed food hubs to create local distribution centers that connect local farmers with restaurants, local retail vendors, and of course consumers. DC Central Kitchen provides fresh local healthy food to one hundred nearby homeless shelters, transitional homes, and nonprofit organizations and 5,000 students in D.C. schools.
The local food movement is growing for all the right reasons. Local fresh healthy food is an option that we should all be able to enjoy.