Working for a Local Food System Revolution

Food is a hot topic these days. Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International and author of Easy Kitchen Garden, Step by Step, says evidence of a kitchen garden revolution is everywhere:

“New food gardens are being planted in schoolyards across the country. Community gardens are in such high demand that some of them have waiting lists. Vegetable seed sales have risen sharply over the past few years. In urban and suburban areas, the revolution is not so much a grass-roots movement as a grass-roots removement, as more families replace patches of lawn with edibles.”

But as safety, nutrition and food security concerns drive growing interest in homegrown, local, seasonal and organic eggs, meat, dairy products, produce and grains, contributing editor Barbara Pleasant raises an interesting issue: greenwashing in supermarkets. She reports:

“I saw a sign at my local supermarket that said, ‘Love local food? We do, too! Look for the signs ….’

“Unfortunately, the store did not have our famous local peaches — or anything else that was locally grown except some okra. But shoppers could have thought local food was available because of the misleading sign. On the other hand, I heard conversations among those in the store about how buying locally benefits the economy.

“MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been a major ripple-maker, tossing lots of pebbles into the Big Pond over the years, so don’t forget to appreciate how beautiful those ripples are. The ‘village-ization’ of America is underway. I think we must question whether the companies that are trying to join this new food movement are delivering on their promises. I know some of them are. In North Carolina, there’s a regional supermarket chain, Ingles, that started carrying local dairy products way before it became cool.

“Why doesn’t MOTHER EARTH NEWS set up an online page so readers and local growers’ organizations can report on how the stores in their areas are doing when it comes to supporting local farmers and food shoppers?”

Sounds like a great idea, Barbara. How about it, readers? If you have information to report about how supermarkets in your area are — or are not — helping us build a better food system, please post it below. Include how the supermarket staff reacted when you asked for more local food options.

More kitchen gardeners growing some of their own food, more small-scale local growers, more farmers markets, more community supported agriculture programs — all of this activity bodes well for building a more secure system that delivers higher-quality food. But there’s no way around it — most of us still buy much of our food at the supermarket. If we want everyone to have access to better food (and local growers to thrive), then we need to tell our supermarkets we want more local and seasonal products. By reporting both the good news and the bad news about your local stores’ decisions, you can help create momentum for change.

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