Good Food Should Not Be A Privilege. This Study Found It Was. Except They Obscured That Part.

FoodDesertChicagoHere’s a press release about a paper, “Resurgence of the Locavore: The Growth of Multi-Motive Local Foods Markets in the United States,” presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting on Saturday:

Study Finds Local Food Movement Rooted In Relationships And Values, Phys.org, 22 August 2015

There is a classist element to this story. The information in it may not be elitist – that there is a rise in the number of local food markets – but the translation is. Right off the bat, in the title, where it says the local food movement is rooted in relationships and values – it’s not. It’s rooted in wealth and privilege. The authors said so much!

Here are some quotes from the article:

  • [People who shop at farmers’ markets] believe the food is fresher and tastes better.
  • They enjoy knowing who grows their food.
  • These so-called “locavores” are also driven to eat locally grown produce and meat because their commitment to do so makes them feel a part of something greater than themselves – a community that shares their passion for a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable environment.
  • Supporting the local food movement is a sort of civic duty, an act to preserve their local economy against the threats of globalization and big-box stores.
  • It’s not just about the economical exchange; it’s a relational and ideological exchange as well.
  • It’s about valuing the relationship with the farmers and people who produce the food and believing that how they produce the food aligns with your personal values.

It is as if people who have access have morals, but people who don’t have access? Are they any less virtuous? Perhaps they also like food that is fresher and tastes better. (!) Perhaps they also care about the environment, wish to preserve the local economy, perform a civic duty, live a healthy lifestyle, engage in ideological exchanges, value people who produce food, believe that how local farmers produce food aligns with their personal values.

I’m not saying that people who shop at farmers’ markets are less than because they are privileged; I’m saying it’s wrong to assign morality by class. The have-nots are just as moral as the haves, they just don’t have the resources to act.

Notice this sentence:

The UI researchers discovered local food markets were more likely to develop in areas where residents had a strong commitment to civic participation, health and the environment.

That’s not true. Because, further down, at the end, almost as an afterthought! (“also”) they said:

Sara Rynes, a professor of Management & Organizations in the UI’s Tippie College of Business, and co-author of the study, said the researchers also found that local food markets, whether farmers markets, food coops or otherwise, were more likely to be located in cities and counties with higher education levels, higher income levels and more institutions of higher education.

“Sociologists and political scientists have argued that higher income allows people to make consumption decisions based on values in addition to matters of price or value,” Rynes said.

The higher income levels come first, in fact, they are necessary to the rise of farmers’ markets! The morality is not necessary because it is ubiquitous, it applies to everyone irrespective of class. People with low income also have “a strong commitment to civic participation, health and the environment.”

Notice, also that the person in the photo in the Phys.org link, as well as the shopping experience depicted, is representative of a class of people with access and privilege.

I think the people who wrote and edited and approved and published this article are unaware of their privilege.

Each time you tell someone to eat locally grown and organic, to buy at farmers’ markets, to cook from scratch at home, each time you do these things yourselves, know that you are acting from a position of privilege.

One thought on “Good Food Should Not Be A Privilege. This Study Found It Was. Except They Obscured That Part.

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