Ever since the term locavore was coined in 2005, there has been a lot of excitement around the prospect of people enjoying fresher, tastier foods, with less of an environmental impact because they travel less. We have come to appreciate farmers’ markets, contemplated food miles, and argued endlessly over what’s better: organic tomatoes or local tomatoes.
It was only a matter of time, then, until the big food companies understood the potential of the term “local”. Once they caught on to the trend, they started using it in their own creative ways to market the same old products, but with a twist. A very enlightening article on this subject appeared in the New York Times:
Frito Lay is … kicking off a marketing campaign that is trying to position the nation’s best-selling brand of potato chips as local food.
Five different ads will highlight farmers who grow some of the two billion pounds of starchy chipping potatoes the Frito-Lay company uses each year. One is Steve Singleton, who tends 800 acres in Hastings, Fla.
“We grow potatoes in Florida, and Lays makes potato chips in Florida,” he says in the ad. “It’s a pretty good fit.”
What you need to know:
Organic junk food is still junk food, and similarly, the fact that a manufacturer calls it’s products local does not contribute to your health.
The real meaning behind the local food movement is to promote small farms, enable people to eat in an ecologically responsible manner. This means eating food in its season and not shipping it halfway around the world. It means minimizing waste in petroleum, used both for gasoline and fertilizer. It means keeping the soil healthy so it can continue to provide crops fro decades and centuries to come.
And it means less processed food. it means smaller artisan manufacturers. Which is exactly the opposite of the American way of doing business in the past 100 years (bigger is better, no?).
Watching huge food corporations jumping on this bandwagon is like listening to a bad joke. Don’t get us wrong, there is definitely room for a bag of potato chips and some Dunkin’ Donuts here and there. But please don’t BS us about local…
What to do at the supermarket:
If you want local food, farmer’s markets are usually a good place to go. Some of Whole Foods Market’s fresh products also state where they were produced, in many cases not too far. But for the most part, a supermarket is the antithesis of local. It could never have grown to offer 40,00o items uniformly and regularly otherwise.
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