Food - here and there

I love food. I think eating a good meal with friends and family is one of the truly fine things in life. BUT many of us are beginning to realize the food that is on our plates and that we eat has a whole history attached to it.

For example, it is estimated that:

  • the average forkful of food travels about 1,500km (think strawberries from California, apples from New Zealand, a burger – soy/corn grown in the USA, the animals are moved around to slaughterhouses and then sent out to stores across Canada, etc).
  • Canadians spend less of their income on food (at home) than almost any other country in the world
  • food waste accounts for 30% – 40% all the food produced

We have been made to believe that food should be cheap, and industry has produced cheap food. Food that is no longer ‘natural’; food that is highly processed; food that is produced by an ever shrinking number of corporations, and food that wreaks havoc on the environment.

Many people are waking up to this disconnection with our food – our disconnection with nature/the soil and how food should be produced. We are gardening more, going to farmer’s markets, demanding ‘locally’ produced foods, demanding ‘certified organic’ foods, and foods that are Fair Trade Certified but there is still something missing. I contend that this missing aspect is that we know that even though we have changed what we purchase, where we shop, and how the items are produced, we know that the food system is ill.

The vast majority of food sold in Edmonton is produced by a small number of multinational food corporations, sold by a small number of national or multinational chain stores, and bought by consumers who assume that this is simply how it is done.

‘Local’ has taken on a huge role in bringing awareness to the food issue – especially food insecurity. But ‘local’ is not the end of the food trail. When we purchase local food, the grower is getting a more equitable ‘reward’ for his food, more money stays in the local economy, and the food tends to have less chemicals used on it (it is noted that certified organic food also ensures that the food  is grown in a more respectful manner).

But most of us can’t feed ourselves or don’t wish to feed ourselves from only local products – where does your black pepper come from? or your rice? bananas? corn? quinoa? What you need to consider is: are you spending your money on a system that you want to support? Get informed!

In many countries, farmers are pressured to grow food commodities and in many cases, though they may be producing lots of one or two commodities, the diversity of their farm is small – they are food insecure. They are encouraged to plant over their gardens for export commodities and told that they will make so much money that they can buy food. I believe we should help people stay food secure rather than becoming part of the food commodity system and becoming food insecure.

You can see this even in our own farmland. Rarely do farms have the huge gardens that they used to have. They grow their commodity, sell it, and go into the big box to buy food that is produced and shipped in from somewhere else. Food insecurity in a land full of plenty!

If you don’t support the farming practices you want to see (local, organic), show respect for the land (organic/biodynamic) and support respectable wages for producers (Fair Trade/farmer’s markets), or support your local independent businesses – then who will? Each of us can make the choice to support a healthier food system.

Written by: Michael Kalmanovitch, founder and owner of Earth’s General Store.

In Canada Food Sovereignty