Friday, May 1, 2020

On Eating Local

Let's start this article with honestly.  I've never been one to research where the things I buy come from.  I do buy locally in terms of supporting local businesses, but I've never really paid attention to things like country of origin when it comes to food.  I've blindly trusted the system.  Fast forward to today, where farmers and ranchers are plowing crops under, washing dairy down the drain, and euthanizing animals ready for slaughter.  Yet, grocery stores are rationing items to customers as "1 per person" because there isn't enough to keep the shelves stocked.  WTF?  Our system is broken and now is the time to change it.  We've become very used to cheap food, with no care as to where it's grown, processed, or packaged.

I've been trying to educate myself on the current food situation and what is happening.  Before anyone gets on their soapbox and starts with the hoarding rant.  I'd like to point out a few things I've learned in the last month or so in reaching information about eating local.    I've put these quotes in order of the article publication, not the order in which I read them.

From Namibia First African Country to Export Meat to Hungry US Market from February 20th:
"Namibia will benefit economically from tapping into the largest consumer market with purchasing power of $13 trillion.."
This was before the COVID-19 shutdown.  $13 trillion US dollars going to Africa for beef.  What?  Why isn't that money staying here to support our own American grown beef?

From the Ground Reports Requested – How Well-Stocked is Your Local Grocery Store? article on March 23rd:
"Most consumers are not aware food consumption in the U.S. is now a 50/50 proposition. Approximately 50% of all food was consumed “outside the home” (or food away from home), and 50% of all food consumed was food “inside the home” (grocery shoppers)."
This was the old normal, the statistic before the widespread shelter in place and before the restaurant shutdowns. While there may be hoarding happening, before you jump on that bandwagon and beat your war dumb you might want to take this into consideration.  The 50% that was eating out, may still be ordering take out, but they are also buying more groceries then they were before the pandemic.

From  L.A. Bureaucrats Shut Down Restaurants for Selling Groceries Without a Permit article on March 31st:
"A few Los Angeles restaurants struggling to maintain footing amid the COVID-19 outbreak identified a clever way to generate revenue while still serving the community: Start selling groceries.
The city's public health department promptly shut them down. The reason? The small businesses don't have a "grocery permit."
This especially irritates me.  We have a huge food waste issue because restaurants are only able to do take out, or worse are closed.  Locally owned places come up with an option to keep the food from being wasted and some bureaucratic idiot decides that's just not an option in spite of the current state of affairs.

From the  New Wyoming Law Lets Local Ranchers Sell Cuts of Meat Directly to Consumers article on April 4th:
"Wyoming's groundbreaking Food Freedom Act has served as a national model for how states can deregulate many in-state food sales. The five-year-old law opened up many previously illegal food transactions in Wyoming, and has delivered on its promise to benefit ranchers, other food entrepreneurs, and consumers alike. And it's done so without a single case of foodborne illness being tied to any foods sold under the law. "
More states and food providers need to be pushing for this kind of implementation and change.   I would wager a guess that it would cut down on the amount of food waste, even under normal circumstances.

From the Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables:  Food Waste of the Pandemic article on April 11th:
"... costs of harvesting, processing and then transporting produce and milk to food banks or other areas of need would put further financial strain on farms that have seen half their paying customers disappear."
This is also maddening.  We need some option in the middle for farmers and ranchers to be able to offer a farm to table, you pick option for people.  This wouldn't solve everything, but it would help.

So what do all of these quotes have to do with eating local?  They're all to give you some food for thought the next time you go grocery shopping.  Where is your food from?

When I suggest eating local, I don't necessarily mean produced in your town or even state for that matter.  I'm currently thinking on a bigger scale - Is it from the US?  So much of our produce comes from Mexico, we're getting meat from Africa, what's next?

Now more than ever we need to focus on the origin of our food.  The effects of COVID-19 CLOSURES on our economy stretches far and wide.  We need to start at home and buy from our friends, neighbors, fellow Americans.  Start buying locally, eating locally, and shopping locally.  This is bigger than the shutdown of a restaurant where wait staff lost their jobs.  It doesn't stop there.  There are farmers and ranchers that may lose what they've spent generations building because or these closures.  Have you stopped to think that there is a possibility some of these restaurants, they've been selling to for decades, may not be able to reopen?

Start putting your money where your mouth is, and start trying to eat local.  Find out who your local food suppliers are, reach out, educate yourself on what is in your local area. Could you be buying eggs, milk, cheese, meat, veggies, grain, etc. from someone that would welcome the support, no matter how small?

Alaska currently has the Alaska Grown $5 per Week challenge to encourage Alaskans to buy Alaskan grown products.  That's $20 month on locally produced food.  I purchase locally grown and produce barley products from Alaska Flour Company and I try to buy locally grown produce at our grocery stores.  I even have a local egg lady that I buy eggs from.

I really want to encourage you to take a look at where your food is coming from.

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