Peninsular Place


August 27, 2012

Adventures in Local Food #21


Whose Food? Our Food.

With all the talk of GMOs, California’s “Right to Know” labeling initiative and the subsequent boycotts against the global food conglomerates who have attempted to silence that conversation with cold hard cash, it reminds us all about the importance of knowing where our food comes from (and who we actually bought it from!). If you hadn’t noticed, it’s tough out there as a conscious consumer – especially since trusted, independently-owned, organic or “natural” brands have quietly become subsidiaries of some of the worst offenders of the industrial food system.

And unless you do extensive background research, you probably will have no idea whether or not that “natural” product you are buying at the local grocery store is actually owned by Hain Celestial (aka Cargill, a subsidiary of Monsanto). In fact, I still remember the moment when I found out, to my horror, that one of my favorite kinds of non-local, organic tortilla chips are owned by them. If we didn’t have the deliciously local Ann Arbor Tortilla Company here, I may have caved, given this consumer conundrum where many organic and natural brands out there are simply the newest marketing strategies for products actually made and distributed by Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi, General Mills, Unilever and the other major transnational food corporations.

Unfortunately, though, too often consumers do respond to this knowledge with apathy. In other words, some people come to feel that if trying to buy products (often at a higher cost) that are healthier, better for the earth and better for the growers still pads the pockets of the same corporations behind the problems with the food system, then what’s the point? Why not just shop for food at Wal-Mart? Fortunately, though, there are many others who have been inspired by this situation to boycott the products that would put negative pressure on those corporate pockets.

Meanwhile, however, more and more people have been challenging the industrial food system and the power these mega corporations have over what we eat by taking food cultivation and production into their own hands. Whether it’s in a container garden on your roof, a raised bed garden in your front lawn, chickens in your backyard or a one acre market garden on a vacant lot, each seed you plant, each egg you eat, each jar of pickles you make and each vegetable you bring to market has a positive impact.

As many gardens are currently in full swing, the impact of locally-grown and produced food is most apparent this time of year. I’ve been lucky enough to visit gardens in Flint, Detroit and even Ypsi recently where urban farmers are using creative ways to provide food for the community, create more greenspace and perhaps even make a bit of extra income from the veritable fruits of their labor. In Detroit and Flint especially, gardens have seemingly popped up everywhere in the past year.

Whether they are school gardens, hospital farms or even fancy designer gardens created by software companies, the common thread is the excitement and action they inspire for both the participants and the community as a whole. In this sense, it is really amazing how just a few short years ago local food was still somewhat of an abstraction or something just for “foodies,” whereas now it’s seen as basically a prerequisite for life. The magic of locally-grown food is that when a garden goes in, people stop feeling that unhealthy food is simply a given in our consumer-driven society and instead start to feel that healthy food access is a right worth defending. So if you haven’t already, plant that first seed – social change never tasted so good.

For more information on who owns which brands these days, the best source (in my opinion) is MSU professor Dr. Phil Howard:

About the Author

Stefanie Stauffer
Stefanie Stauffer
Stefanie is a local food crusader and another awesome member of the iSPY team.

Mike Vial at Woodruff's


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