The other night I was sitting in my room, working in the blue glow of my computer screen, when my ears began focusing on a conversation in my shared living room.
"Hey, everyone should start boycotting the potatoes in D2," I heard a girl's voice say.
A few people laughed, and then asked why they should do such a thing.
"Well, I've been reading the freshman common book for a class I'm taking, and it talks about how you should only eat locally grown food instead of food from the other side of the country. So, I asked the serving lady in D2 where the potatoes came from and she said they were from Idaho. So, now I'm boycotting them."
A craze has been sweeping across campus, sparked by this year's freshman common book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And honestly, I'm not really sure how I feel about it.
The book, which highlights a year of the Kingsolver-Hopp family as they attempt to eat nothing but locally grown food in an effort to improve their health, decrease the miles that food must travel, and emphasizes that local food will make a more sustainable world.
While I am only a few chapters into the book, here are my observations thus far:
My feelings on locally grown food - Honestly, I like the concept of locally grown food. Being able to put a face to the person that grows your food not only increases consumer's confidence in their food supply, but also promotes job security of the local farmer. Plus, its nice that neighbors can support each other in that sense. However, you can't always find what you want that’s grown within a 100 mile radius. For the "potato-boycotting" girl, potatoes may not be a big deal to give up in the "go local" movement. But I bet that if you suggested that she would have to give up her daily mocha-frappa-coffee-latte (because I don't think coffee beans are a local commodity in Southwest Virginia), you would have to clear the way for a near mental breakdown. It’s a nice idea, buying locally grown food, but it wouldn't be able to support people's demand. Plus, I'm not quite ready to give up sugar.
My feelings on locally grown food sustaining the world - In my humble opinion, I don't think that's going to happen. It is easy for Americans to say "Oh, I could easily do that!" because there are so many food venues to choose from: organic, natural, local, conventional, and many other markets. As I said before, locally grown food would not be able to support the world's growing population: the current population is 6.8 billion people and it's expected to rise to over 9 billion by 2050. These approximate 2.2 billion people entering the world will need a place to live, turning potential farming land in to residential homes. Today, between 1-2 billion people are malnourished due to insufficient food, low incomes, and inadequate food distribution.
Facing the challenge to feed these numbers is intimidating and the way we need to tackle it, is through efficiency. It shouldn't be about what's trendy or popular, but about whats productive.
There is a balance for all these food markets, but at the end of the day, the most important task to accomplish is making sure as many people as possible get fed.
- Morgan Slaven