Friday, October 15, 2010

Local Food?

It's hard, as a lover of food, to ignore the many issues in the food world today. Everyone has an opinion, and every issue has a study backing it. For some reason, it seems there is more and more press on food-related things now, and lately in particular. It probably doesn't help that I am reading Best Food Writing 2010 (and highly recommend it), since many of the issues discussed today are topics of the essays presented in the book. The point of this post is mainly to recommend the book, and not to delve into the arguments behind the many reasons to or not to eat something, but I do have a few thoughts about an article I just read.

Walmart Goes Local, on
My first thought was, WTF? Doesn't the concept of local goods, unique to the town, region, or state, go against everything Walmart, as a national retailer, has done to the average consumer? I ran through several discussion points in my head, but then I realized what was actually bothering me about this particular issue. It is not that the concept of local is contradictory to the economies of scale that supports Walmart. It's not that people shopping for produce at Walmart may have other priorities than local production. It's also not the concern that local farmers may not be able to compete with prices. And it's beyond wondering if it all is a publicity stunt, or an attempt to lure new shoppers into the store.

Should Walmart be spending money on local produce programs when they offer no benefits and very low wages to the majority of their employees? I know it's not a sexy or trendy issue, like local produce, but it is a very real problem. Walmart, in it's position as gigantic retailer and employer, has the ability to make widespread changes to retail jobs across the country. This issue concerns me greatly, and until they make changes in the direction of a living wage or basic benefits to employees, I cannot be impressed by other things, like this local food thing, that they will do.

What do you think? Will Walmart be successful in their support of local farmers? Should they address the issues within their company before attempting to reach out? Do you eat local food? Do you have any particular food-related shopping habits like buying local, eating seasonally, or anything else?

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