Eat Local Challenge? Try Fair Trade Too
Many food bloggers this month are taking the challenge to eat only locally-produced food. This Eat Local Challenge started in California, not a bad place to conduct this experiment. At first, I was intrigued but after only a few seconds of thought, I turned the idea down. You can read some compelling arguments on the subject by Barret in Chicago. I'd like to add two of my own:
1. One of the greatest things about growing up in a working-class immigrant neighborhood outside of Chicago was the great ethnic varieties of food all aorund me. I learned to appreciate Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Czechoslovakian (there was a Czechoslovakia at the time), Puerto Rican, German and Irish food just from the neighbors living on my block. In high school, our bake sales were like culinary anthropology lessons. I know what I know about food mainly because of that early exposure to dishes that came from far away.
2. Eating Locally is only noble to the degree it is insignificant. Now I am no apologist for Dole or The United Fruit Company! Certainly the Eat Local Challenge has within its scope a grass-roots tactic to weaken, or at least not support the exploitative and anti-ecological practices of global agribusiness. If it were possible to achieve this without simultaneously harming 3rd World farmers, I might be persuaded to try it. If Eating Locally really took off, it would have the side effect of 1st World protectionism. My answer is Fair Trade foods. Global (yes! global!) corporations of which Max Havelaar is only an example, sell coffee, mangoes, bananas, honey, rice, sugar, etc, etc. from small farming organizations in the "south" of the world that have a democratic structure, pay fair wages and produce food in an environmentally-friendly way. I think the French term, "Alter-mondialization" (roughly, "alternative globalization") is so much more attractive and viable than Anti-globalization. We can't move back to the pre-industrial past; let's move into the future the right way.
And besides, NOBODY'S taking away my coffee!