J500 Media and the Environment


Is a sustainable food system realistic? by jackiemcc

Are the poor people going to be able to afford food from your local Whole Foods Market on a monthly basis?

My first experience with local and organic foods was when when my dad brought my sister and me to our local Whole Foods Market soon after my parent’s divorce. Ever since then, my dad has been a healthy eater.

And his healthy eating habits have rubbed off on me. Now I am not saying I am the healthiest eater ever, but his habits have made me think twice about what I eat. Sometimes I am about to eat something I probably shouldn’t, and my conscious will tell me not to, because my dad wouldn’t agree with my choice. I try my best to eat healthy most of the time.

I do think a sustainable local food system is a good idea. Not only does it decrease transportation time and costs, but it also supports local farmers, among other reasons. I believe it would benefit the Lawrence community to eat more local and organic foods.

However, I am skeptical that having a sustainable food system would actually work. I think it would be hard to establish and maintain an entire city based on this system for an indefinite period of time.

When a movement becomes trendy it becomes popular for a short amount of time. During that time, many people want to be associated with it. However, after a while, that item or style is not trendy anymore, and it is soon forgotten. When that happens, that desired item or style is not as popular anymore.

And this is why a sustainable food system would not work. I feel that we are in the Locavore Movement where “going green,” and eating local and organic foods, are popular right now. I don’t think this phase will last forever. Sure, there will still be people who will only eat local and organic foods, but I don’t think everyone will be fixated with it after the movement. It is not something everyone will stay committed to forever.

Another reason I don’t think a sustainable food system would actually work is because of class differences and food costs. This goes back to our discussion in my journalism class a couple of weeks ago about the costs of organic foods. There are always going to be people who won’t be able to afford local and organic foods, which is why fast food is so popular. These people are not going to just become rich overnight. They have to buy what they can afford. Sure, the entire sustainable food system may be cheaper overall for the community, as the Lawrence Journal-World Localvore blog points out, but the individual foods will still be too expensive for some.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully support a sustainable food system, but I’m realistically evaluating if this is just a trend, or if it is a practical idea. If anyone can provide an alternative explanation to me, I encourage you to.

–Jackie McClellan

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11 Comments so far
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I really like your post Jackie because this is a concern I always come back to when I read about eating organic. You can’t ignore the fact that some people just can’t buy better food. And it’s frustrating because that is so unjust. Of all necessities, I feel like society should be obligated to provide lower-income families with healthy food.
When we went to the DCFPC meeting last week, I started thinking about how there could be a way to solve this problem. Creating a sustainable food system wouldn’t just create sustainable food. It would also create jobs. It seems reasonable to think that a sustainable food system may be a way to improve the health of the environment, and of the lower-class.

K.Cochran

Comment by Kelly

Kelly-
I am glad you enjoyed my post! I think you make a great point about how society should provide lower-income families with healthy food. I think that is a great idea.

Your idea that creating a sustainable food system would improve the health of the lower class through jobs is a good idea. I am curious as to how the two would tie together more specifically though.

Also when you mentioned that idea, I began to wonder how else we could provide lower-income families with healthier foods. If we could think of a realistic way of doing that, I’m all for it.

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie,

I see definitely see your point in some of your comments, but I have to say that I don’t agree with you. The organic and especially local foods movements may be new to us, but they were how all food was produced and consumed for thousands of years. I don’t see the movement as a “trend” but as the way it should be and is going back to. Yes, it bothers me greatly that many people can’t afford the good food, but there are many things that can be done to help that. There are many inner city community gardens that are organic that are popping up nationwide in low income areas. Also, eating local can be cheaper than not with certain foods. -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Kristina-
You do make a very good point, and you are right about the inner city community gardens.

I just don’t know if those gardens and the certain foods that are cheaper locally would be enough to serve the lower-income families for an indefinite period of time. There are many, many lower-income families to feed, and I’m not sure the demand to feed them all locally will be able to keep up with what is available.

Just for my information, I would be curious to know some examples of those foods that are cheaper locally than not.
Good point though.

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie,

I visited the farmers’ market in downtown KCMO every weekend that I was in town this past summer (it is the largest open air market in the Midwest). There were many things, like blueberries, greens, honey, peppers, okra, etc. that were a tad bit cheaper than at supermarkets. Also handmade local jewelry was pretty cheap. -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Jackie-
I think you make a great point that buying organic can be more expensive and therefore it will be more difficult to make it stick past the trend stage. I know that I find myself veering away from the organic section in grocery stores because the prices are higher. Do you think that there is any way that the demand for non-organic food will go down and demand for organic will go up, making prices on organic food decrease? I know it could be a stretch, but an ideal stretch.
Becca N

Comment by beccan

Becca-
That is a good question–I am torn on it. I don’t think the prices for organic foods will go down, because they have always been priced higher, and I think that is how they will remain.
And personally, I don’t think the demand for organic foods will go down either. I don’t think people will buy the organic foods because of the higher prices.
Although, I do want to recognize your point, and say that theoretically it is a possibility. It could happen.
Good question!

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie-
I definitely see your point, with many organic brands being more expensive than non organic, but I think there’s a vast difference between an organic food system and a local food system. As I understand it, an organic food system would likely have the same transportation, packaging…. etc, costs as processed food. I know a lot of local brands, like Kansas City Robert’s Dairy, aren’t necessarily organic, but are often just as cheap, if not cheaper than other name brand products. Thoughts on this?

—Kayla R.

Comment by KaylaReg

Kayla-
You make a very good point; something that I didn’t even think about. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

In regards to my post, both organic and local foods are important for lower-income families. I do think both organic and local foods would benefit them (as well as everyone else). My post was more directed towards the local foods, which is what the Locavore Movement strives for. Although, I do think both are important.

My stance on both the local and organic foods still stands however. I’m not so sure that it would be able to survive considering how many poor people there are, and how little money they have.

I think the local foods might be a better option for lower-income families than organic foods.
Another thought that comes to mind is the variability of these cheaper local foods. How many local foods are there that are cheaper than other name brands? Is it only a few options, or would the lower-income families have more than just a few foods to choose from?
Great point to bring up though.

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie,
While I agree that some trends tend to fade, I don’t think this one will because of something very important. The reason we are even having this discussion is because the price of oil (and therefore transportation) has not been truly factored in. If we finally are able to account for the price that transporting food (and other things) really cost, both the actual raw price and the cost to society, we’ll be paying a lot more for things than we do now. Buying local could fix that.

–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

Ben-
That is a very good point that I didn’t think about earlier. And you are absolutely right.
Honestly, I can see both sides to the argument. My first instinct was to go with what I wrote about in my post.
You are right that buying locally beats the price of oil and transportation any day, and that it will benefit us more in the long run.

One idea that comes to mind in response to your comment is the awareness of the price oil. Have you seen many people talk about going green and the price of oil in the same conversation?
Personally, I find that the price of oil is forgotten in the conversation, and all people are talking about is going green. I think the price of oil needs to be brought up more into the conversation. What do you think?

Great point though! I didn’t even think about that!

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc




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