This past Saturday I attended a conversation about local food and its availability in this area. I live in a city that even though is very small is also very diverse and it showcases several local farmers, a farmer’s market and a store that carries fresh organic produce and other types of organic food.
People attending were from several backgrounds, including some who have been born abroad or have lived abroad for a long time. Everyone was interested in having more local food, and also acknowledged the fact that organic food is expensive.
We also spoke about how low-income people most of the time cannot purchase ‘good’ food. It should be highlighted that it is not a choice, but their financial circumstances do not let them get better food.
It is also a fact that pantries and other places that have food for the poor, in most part, carry packaged and canned food. That is, when a collection is made, people bring what they have and make it available to people in need. Meat, eggs, butter, chicken, fresh vegetables and fruits are not part of what is given away.
Other topics were also discussed. For example, people usually associate good coffee with Ireland, chocolates with France or Switzerland and English tea. But I wonder where the crops come from; to my knowledge coffee, cocoa or tea come from third world countries, as also do bananas, avocados and many other things that people in United States take for granted. In order to have cheap bananas, Central America paid with their land, their political stability and their financial ruin.
And when coffee plants were switched to a different variety that previously existed in countries like Colombia, peasants could no longer plant coffee along side their own staples like cocoa, yucca and plantain. Instead they had to turn to mono crop coffee production, buying foreign chemicals for the new coffee plants and having to buy their food elsewhere because they no longer could grow their own food.
Every other country has had a similar experience changing from feeding their own people and having to comply with the demands of the international market.
At this point one has to wonder what Bolivians will have to suffer since developed countries like USA, discovered quinoa and are demanding more and more. Nowadays the product is becoming too expensive for local consumption.
Increasingly, the foods eaten in United States are imported because bananas, coffee, chocolate, fish and shellfish, apple juice, cashew nuts, spices, and other imported foods are produced in greater quantity or less expensively abroad or, in some cases, cannot be produced in the U.S.
The so-called ‘Banana Republics’, were the creation of foreign markets that supported dictators and created armies to gain control of the land. One could revise food items and look at history to find any instances in which agro-industry, trading and foreign powers have changed the history of peoples in order to feed the developed countries.
One of the most exciting things happening in United States now is the increasing interest of the people in changing the producing and feeding habits of the people. More and more people are finding out that local products are good for their health and also for their finances. It is the hope that in freeing themselves from dependency on other markets, also people elsewhere will find more freedom, justice and peace.
People everywhere in United States are looking for ways to reconnect with their soil and their food and change their relationship with each other, the land and the ecosystem in general. That is the way to richness and health.
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