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Invest in communities of color, or die! [Part I: The Problem]
Benjamin Harrison1 comment
NOV 15, 2022
Part 1: The Problem
“The domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.” —Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom, pg 1
Part I: The problem
Part II: Food deserts aren't real
Part III: How to fail
Part IV: The last capitalist
Part V: Revolution
In part I of this series, I'll examine economic food trends and social patterns. Then I'll compare that data to prevalent business practices and the effects these practices have on our environment. In part II, we look more closely at food in our cities and how barriers take physical form in our geographies as food apartheid.
Who in the world can afford local food?
The greatest obstacle in growing the local food movement is wealth inequality. That’s why health food is a fringe area of the supermarket and why grocery stores and farmers markets fall along racial and economic borderlines in our towns, cities, and states.
It’s why, despite over a century of marketing and literature, local food is less than 1 percent of the total food market. Even organic food is just 5 percent of the food market, and only 1 percent of all farmland in the US is certified organic.
The healthiest foods, and the foods that benefit local economies, are the most cost prohibitive. But only in one sense. There are also large hidden costs to so-called affordable food, for example, carcinogens in pesticides that negatively affect the human nervous system. In the end, which is more cost prohibitive?
The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking.
The true cost of affordable food
Created by Monica Bruckner, Montana State University
There are also real food costs that are absorbed by nature, such as nitrogen fertilizer pollution from farms along the Mississippi River. This has led to a 6,000 square foot “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, where fish cannot survive.
95 percent of Americans eat the foods that directly contribute to these issues, of which I have mentioned just two. Also, consider: topsoil erosion, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, air pollution, water shortages, nutrient loss in produce, deforestation, and myriad other ecocatastrophes.
The main benefit of capitalism has been to evolve beyond material scarcity. Machines now produce food, clothing, shelter, and other goods in excess. So much so that scarcity is now something that must be enforced in order to keep certain power structures in place.
A few examples: Amazon’s “Destruction Zone”, H&M burned 12 tonnes of unsold clothing, Burberry burned $38 million worth of unsold clothing, and there are over 16 million empty homes in the US (with a homeless population of 567,715).
Of course, food is no exception. Grocery chains in the United States send 40 percent of their food to landfills, and another 30 percent of food never leaves the farm. 11 million American children are food insecure. In Arkansas alone, 1 in 5 children are food insecure (the highest in the nation).
Abundance is our reality, but hunger and homelessness persist. Food spoils in the field. Houses remain empty. If we search long enough for the roots of these crimes, we find poverty. And from its burning branches, we find a rigidly enforced system of wealth inequality.
In part II, I'll examine food apartheid and food deserts, what defines them, how they're created, and begin to consider possible solutions.
Written by Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin is the founder and CEO of FareMarket, a data analyst, professional writer and researcher, food justice advocate, and a former urban farmer.
Important topic, and the criticisms are valid. However, at the grassroots level, there are also local problems of lost knowledge / cultural loss for producing one’s own garden foods (and preserving them). I think the hunger insecurity today is much greater than it was even in generations past because of those losses in cultural knowledge (particularly in rural and suburban areas). And patterns of human consumption are not dictated only by capitalism per se, but by social values and trends. If suddenly TikTok and other social media sites were focused on environmental issues and eco-friendly farming, I suspect that young people would be influenced in a positive way. Would there be some companies that try to profit from that – sure, but I do think that it’s important to separate some things that are about logistics and innovation, and the science of ecology, which are things we can address right now, in the current socioeconomic system, versus the idealism of a better economic system which, however morally superior and noble, evokes panic and reactionary responses from the very people who would benefit from it.
Looking forward to reading the next parts!!