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Thursday, December 3

yes, the Slow Food and Localvore movements have truly failed the working poor (but we all knew that, right?)

Great piece in the SF Bay Guardian yesterday.  As much as I emphasize buying locally-grown produce (in my own case self-sufficiency has replaced some buying in general), I myself cannot afford to shop much at any of the local farmers' markets unless I go right before the market ends and buy up stuff that is slightly bruised or that the farmers want to be rid of so they don't have to haul it back.  And let's be frank, even if a market accepts WIC or EBT, there is only so much that can be purchased with a stack of $2 WIC vouchers.
There are some limited inroads being made in making locally-grown organic available to more people (read: even inner-city poor), but there is still this undeclared and unacknowledged class war as far as healthful food being accessible to everyone.  It isn't accessible, in a nutshell.  And, as much as the Slow Foodies like to talk about food justice, it is mostly just paying lip-service.  Which we already knew.  The insularity has always pissed me of, not to mention the willingness to turn the other way and ignore the 800 lb gorilla in the room which represents exploited farm/orchard labor, and many going hungy. 
Because it isn't merely about organic, or not.  Or the USDA's watered down organic standards, or not.  Food justice also encompasses the working conditions for the people who grow and harvest the food.  Anyway, enough of me gas-bagging on a topic that gets me worked up.
"Out of reach
How the sustainable local food movement neglects poor workers and eaters
On a sunny afternoon in Civic Center Plaza, a remarkable bounty covered a buffet table: coconut quinoa, organic mushroom tabouli, homemade vegan desserts, and an assortment of other yummy treats. The food and event were meant to raise awareness about public school lunches, although it was hard to imagine these dishes, brought by well-heeled food advocates, sitting under the fluorescent lights of a San Francisco public school cafeteria.

The spread was for the Slow Food USA Labor Day "eat-in," a public potluck meant to publicize the proposed reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, national legislation that regulates the food in public schools. The crowd was in a festive, light-hearted mood. There was a full program of speeches by sustainability experts and a plant-your-own-vegetable-seeds table set up in one corner of the plaza.

A bedraggled couple who appeared homeless made their way through the jovial crowd and started scooping up the food in a way that suggested it had been a long time since their last roasted local lamb shish kebob.

Their presence shouldn't have been a surprise; most events involving free trips down a food table are geared toward a different demographic in this park, which borders the Tenderloin.

In a flash, an event volunteer was on the case, nervous in an endearingly liberal manner. "Sir," she began. "This food is for the Child Nutrition Act." And then she paused, searching for what to say next. I imagined her thinking: "Sir, this food is to raise awareness about the availability of sustainable food to the lower classes, not to be eaten by them," or, "Sir, this good, healthy, local food is not for you."

But there was no good way to say what she meant to convey. She knew it, and delivered her final line hurriedly before walking away. "If you could just, well, just don't take like 25 things, okay?" Indifferent to the volunteer's unspoken reprimand, the couple continued to eat, ignoring the whispers and stares of the social crusaders around them, who all seemed to take issue with their participation in this carefully planned political action.

It was a telling scene from a movement that has yet to really confront its class issues. Though organic grocery stores and farmers markets have sprung up on San Francisco's street corners, it remains to be seen whether our current mania for sustainable, local food will positively affect the lower classes, be they farm workers or poor families.

Even iconic food writer Michael Pollan acknowledges the challenge the sustainability movement faces in widening its relevance for the poor, citing the high cost of local and organic food as just one of the issues that Slow Foodies and their allies must tackle before they can count the "good food" movement a success..."

Read the rest of the piece here.

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