Working Class Versus Slow Food

The typical base logo for the Slow Food movement.

The typical base logo for the Slow Food movement.

This might be a little casual for a blog post (if so, please let me know), but after attending the Slow Money lecture by Woody Tasch this past Friday, there are a few things I’d like to talk about this week – specifically about how one’s economic class can affect both the local environment as well as other environments that are heavily used by major food-production corporations.

Based on my personal experiences after moving out of my mother’s house this past summer (my first experience doing so), alongside observing the shopping habits of some of my friends, family, and even strangers, I’ve noticed that your economic level heavily affects what kind of foods one might select at the grocer.  College students like myself, alongside members of the working class (especially those with large families, as it seems is often the case) often spring for whatever they can for the cheapest price, at the cheapest and/or nearest location, which is perfectly understandable.  This includes less fresh produce – which can often be expensive, and is wasted money if not eaten in a certain time-frame – and more preserved goods, from frozen foods to more heavily artificial foods like pop-tarts, cereal, and all other manner of junk food that seems to conveniently stay fresh for weeks and weeks.   This type of food often has more distant expiration dates, and also often cheaper to healthier alternatives that won’t last as long.  Longer-lasting food not only means less to replace, since it won’t expire as easily, but it also means such food can be packed in greater quantities, and mean less time spent going to the store.

Meanwhile, those who have the means to do so may spring for more fresh alternatives; those who are even better off may even have switched over to eating organic food entirely, although as we have seen at Whole Paycheck Whole Foods, an all-organic diet can come at a high price.  Even going to local markets, for local food – or Slow Food, as it may also be called – can be a little pricier, given the fact that growing Slow Food entrepreneurs may not be able to keep their prices competitive with big-name markets, who can produce more food for cheaper than most local farmers.

So what does Slow Food, one’s economic status, and big-name produce corporations have to do with impacting both local and distant environments?

The idea behind Slow Food is that it is locally grown, alongside being environmentally sustainable; buying locally grown food means that the cash-flow for that a particular region is staying there, instead of being taken out of that particular country or region (i.e. Guatemalan farmers raising crops of coffee beans and bananas, and said crops being bought at below-market prices and shipped to be purchased elsewhere by major corporations), and sustainable food means it’s more environmentally friendly to that particular region where it’s being grown.

So what is all of this meant to add up to?

More than anything, I’d like this to act as some sort of starting point for a conversation or debate.  When I first moved out of my mother’s house, I tried going down the path of buying from Slow Food farmers like Jessica’s Farm (this was after both my mother and I had tried only buying food from the local Farmer’s Market – until we discovered stickers indicating that not all the food we had bought had actually been grown in Florida, or even the States).  But Slow Food alternatives were not always an option.  That being the case, what would you suggest for people wishing to support local markets (versus major corporations) but may not have the means to do so?  Environmental awareness is on the rise in the U.S., but even with that happening, people may not consider how even their buying choices for groceries can, in the long run, affect their local environment as well as distant environments being heavily used for farming.

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