Moo if you <3 Social Justice

27 Jun

‘“Anyway you look at it,” Williams said, “it’s a social justice issue when so little of the consumer’s dollar goes to the producer.”’

The bulk of this post talks about the need for anti-trust regulation in the dairy industry, and the disconnect between dairy costs for consumers and low profits for dairy farmers.  Important stuff, but I wish it had elaborated a little more on the “critical connections between the struggles faced by rural farmers and low income urban residents, particularly those that live in so-called “food deserts” and would like to have access to high-quality dairy products.”

One of the many tensions I feel about organic/local/sustainable agriculture is its inaccessibility to low-income consumers.  My quest is a luxury; I have the disposable income to spend on higher (fairer) prices for food.  And I have much better access than most.  Surprisingly, living in a larger metro area like DC actually gives me MORE access to local agriculture than when I lived in a small industrial city in Ohio, surrounded by farmland instead of NoVa’s sprawling suburbs and exurbs.  There’s a critical mass of consumers looking for farmers markets, CSAs, co-ops, organic, etc, and therefore higher competition among food providers to meet those needs.  This leads to more locations, more options, lower prices than you’d find in a smaller town.  Which, actually, is exactly what I hope to accomplish by becoming one of those consumers who cares about how their food got to the table.  But a low income family living in a small city isn’t going to do the research to find obscure, expensive sources of fresh food.  This in turn means that, out of necessity, these consumers rely heavily on the cheaper, lower quality products pushed by the agribusiness kings…and in return, make the largest sacrifices to their health.  The obesity & diabetes epidemics in our country overwhelmingly affect low income communities, and that’s not a coincidence.  

All that to say, I would love to see folks from the slow food movement (or the organic, or the locavore, or what have you) hone in on what it would take to get slow food to make an impact on urban, low income consumers.


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