Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The benefits of higher food prices

Higher food pricesThe Economist has been having an online debate this week over whether or not there are any benefits to the rising costs of food. So far, the pro side has been winning the vote.

Some of the more salient arguments towards the benefits of higher food prices are that it will encourage new investments in agriculture and higher global production. Another point is that, for the last 30 years, the food strategy hasn't been working well for the world's poor. So, in effect, giving a different system a chance will be a good thing. "If a strategy has not worked for 30 years, surely there is an upside to changing strategies."

Some of the con arguments include the idea that it is a fundamental human right to have access to food. Additionally, the losers greatly outnumber the winners with increased prices. These losers include many people who were near or below the poverty line before the current food crisis struck.

What do you think? Is there an upside to higher food prices? Will it really result in new investments in agriculture and higher global production? Or will higher food prices simply push the poor into starvation? Or both? Do biofuels policies distort the market and should we stop them?


ruchi said...

Personally, I think while there might be benefits to some, and while there MIGHT be a long term benefit to the high price of food, in the short term, the high price of food is a huge, immediate problem.

People constantly point out that we tend to pay a much smaller part of our income on food than we did in the 1970s, and yet ignore the fact that we pay much more for housing (another need) as a percentage of our income than we did in the 1970s.

Furthermore, in many parts of the developing world, prices for food are already dangerously high. Any higher and people will starve. Hell, many are already starving.

Sure, maybe in 20 years we'll have a better food system thanks to the higher food prices. But ... that doesn't really help the starving people now.

Anonymous said...

I think that the higher food prices have caused us to look at on a macro and micro level what we are actually supporting with our current agricultural policies. Higher prices are not good for the poor - so many countries have already experienced riots and protests due to lack of access to affordable foodstuffs. I think that the
current biofuels frenzy is hurtful to food supply, and that here in the US we need to totally overhaul our farm subsidy policies. I don't know if you've seen the documentary "King Corn." Two newly graduated college guys go through the process of growing an acre of corn from planning, planting, sourcing buyers for their crop, and then harvest. It was shocking to see how much farmers DON'T make on their crop, how their income is basically all obtained from the government subsidy. Also disturbing was the review of how the "bigger is better" agricultural system developed due to changes in farm funding policies in the early 1970's. Last, and most disturbing to learn from the film was that the corn that the farmers were growing were not the kind that the farmer and his family could go out in the field and eat. They and 90% of the farmers in their state (Iowa) grow industrial corn - corn used to make products for the processed food industry. Things like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, dextrose, and other corn sweeteners, and also feed for cows. Feed that they later show is actually toxic to the cows. I never knew that cows bodies do not really metabolize corn without producing higher and higher levels of acid within them,hence the need for so many antibotics and other meds. The filmmakers touch on the correlation between corn fed beef consumption, consumption of corn (and sweetners and additives) and the rates of obesity and diabetes. The jist of the film for me was that we - our government- are spending all this money to subsidize food that is killing us!
That film, and the frenzy to grow biofuels has convinced me we urgently need a change in our agricultural policies and a reform on all subsidies.

Robj98168 said...

The only upside I see is that it gets folks out gardening and raising food. Even Rob is thinking about getting a few chickens (Rob likes eggs). On the other hand- I feel for people who are having a tuogh time- it is just a reminder to remember the food bank. And remember the soup kitchen.

work4pay said...

You know I never really thought about how rising food prices could ever be good for humans, especially when they`re poor

Erin said...

I think that high food prices could be a good thing if it encourages people to start supporting local farmers and eating locally and garden more. But I think that most Americans are so caught up in instant gratification that they will just complain about food prices, and not take any action to reduce the costs for themselves.

Also I think that all corn ethanol should be done away with in this country as it is causing food shortages around the world and really doing nothing to reduce carbon output. We need to be working on real things that work, like fuel cells and nuclear power, not burning our food supply.

Unknown said...

I agree with Rob - higher food prices have caused me to start growing more of my own food. If everyone had a small garden in their yards, it would not only help the family budget, but it might send a message to politicians that something needs to be done.

Anderson Family said...

Unfortunately the cheaper food is the least nutritious. What people don't understand is that is you eat whole food, especially wheat, you don't need to eat as much to get the same nutrion out of it and it fills you up faster. Yet McDonald's remains and people buy "cheap" empty food.

Anonymous said...

The biggest benefit I see is that people who can will grow more of their own produce. However - unless they can or freeze or dehydrate it it will be tough in the non harvesting seasons. Then you have those who cannot grow for whatever reasons - HOA rules, their own age/health, apartment dwellers with no balcony or access to communitiy gardens - that could be problematic.

Just like the US healthcare system - the food system does need an overhaul - before things get really bad for the masses

Anonymous said...

I don't think high food prices are good for anyone. It just means many folks buy the cheapest processed stuff they can to have something on the table-which in the long haul isn't good for anyone.

Sure it could force more people to grow their own food but not everyone can do this. Most helpful for this would be more community garden space made avialable to people who most need it. Or people who have no backyard to grow food.

Our local food banks have always had trouble staying stocked..soem are less likely to donate since they are worried about putting food on their own tables first. Its been a long haul for food banks is our area and they are seeing a dramatic raise is people coming in.

Some of us can consider ourselves lucky. We can grow our own food, buy more local and support our local farmers. Some of us have the time to can and perserve food stuffs for winter use. Yes it takes time. But others cannot...because they have two or three jobs just to cover rent and food.

We personally have given a couple folks we know 16 x 16 areas in our massive lawn to grow their food...Thier in charge of watering, weeding and upkeep of their plots. I will help out with the canning and perserving. Between both families there are 7 kids. This is 7 kids who will have food to eat. They'll have the experience of learning where food comes from. They can grow what they will use-both gardens vary in what has been planted. Growing their own food does help lowers what they will spend on food at the store. Freeing up money for rent and heating fuel this coming fall.

Is there an upsode to higher food prices..for many folks already struggling no.

Joyce said...

I think we're missing something here. The really poor people, even in this affluent country, don't have yards to grow vegetables in. They don't have the capitol to shell out for chickens or canning materials or freezers. They are the people using food stamps and buying the super-cheap day-old white bread, and getting free school lunches for their kids. They don't have the personal economic margin to make the changes some of us are making. They are living in the projects, or renting a trailer somewhere, and there are a lot of them out there, but we don't see them very easily. They aren't going to make it if both food and fuel go higher- they aren't making it now. It will be even worse in other countries.
So what are we going to do about them, people? For them it's NOT a good thing that gas is going up so people are driving less; it just means they can't get to work as easily. They can't make the move to growing their own, or shopping at the farmer's market. They will just have to eat worse crappy food, and less of it. Their kids will sit in a classroom all day unable to learn because they didn't get a good supper the night before.
What are we going to do about them?

jewishfarmer said...

I think what sometimes gets lost in these discussions is that it matters what *kind* of price rises we see. At the moment, higher food prices are not translating, in most cases, to greater profits for farmers. They are being heavily squeezed by the cost of inputs which are rising with the cost of energy. This is worst for the world's rural poor - who are getting screwed three ways from Sunday, because they were transitioned onto fossil fuel dependent agriculture and were never told it might get pricey. And it is hideous for the growing urban poor who can't afford any food at all.

Frankly, I think the Economist's discussion is a load of pig shit. The idea is that if we make the middlemen richer, they'll "invest" in agriculture - but the suffering of the hungry comes because the same corporations invested in agriculture and created a system that cannot be sustained.

Higher food prices might be good for people if they meant higher returns to farmers, higher quality food and an investment in a food system that could serve a planet that is going to hit 9 billion people. But the current model enriches only a few people, at the expense of the many and is unlikely to lead to any "breakthrough" that will help us much. So no, it is a bad thing. Only the Economist could actually ask whether starving a few hundred million people might be good because it would fund biotech research ;-).


maryann said...

In general no, I do not think that higher food prices are a positive thing. I'm happy to see more people growing their own food and buying from the local farmers, however this isn't an option for everyone. I grow my own vegetables, visit the farm stand once a week and don't buy the cheap processed food and the increased prices are still affecting my budget so I can only imagine what it does to someone with less income. I feel very badly for the elderly in today's situation, living on minimal incomes with rising expenses, how most are able to make ends meet and survive I do not know. How anyone could think high food prices are a positive confuses me. Food is a need not a want, it's not like people can just do without it. More expensive stupid plastic useless shit people don't need wouldn't bother me, more expensive basic food does.

Farmer's Daughter said...

In the US- we don't need higher production. There's so much food waste that it's ridiculous.

I hope that new technologies in sustainable agriculture will be applied, so we can grow food smarter, without polluting more. But I'm pessimistic when it comes to agrobusiness.

Pat said...

So far, the only benefit I've seen to higher food prices is that I'm eating less, which benefits my waistline. Also, I'm driving to the grocery store less, saving gas.

Anonymous said...

For the poor people who are small farmers, if they can hold on through the transition and not starve or get kicked off their land by big agribusiness trying to make a buck, a system of higher prices will be better. Eventually. A lot of my neighbors are immigrants, working in the states and paying off debts on little farms back in Mexico or Guatemala, or supporting the family still there farming who can't make a living at it. If they can get a better price for their crop, they'll be able to make it with fewer family members having to go out into the world as unvalued, unsafe emigrants.

Ditto the few medium-sized farmers left in the industrialized world - a *few* of the young men from the part of Iowa I grew up in are finishing their military stints and coming back to farm. They can't afford to buy land, but their dads and uncles and grandpas are finally making enough money to support a young family as well as the old people who are still farming.

But ditto what Sharon said - there are no guarantees that the people who set up the system we have now are going to lose power, or set up a more equitable system as this one founders. I'd bet the other way, based on historical evidence.

daughter said...

I'm just hoping it will teach Americans and their children that food is not something to let go to waste or throw away. I have always been a conservative shopper but I have lived with some very wasteful people. Hopefully we will learn to share with less fortunate neighbors, but we will have to see.

PS just luv your blog

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere about a practice that is called something like guerrilla gardening - where urban folks who have empty lots in there neighborhood just take over the lot and start using the space for community gardens. If these squatters could somehow have some legal protections created so that they would be able to retain their crops should the absentee landowner discover their activity and desire to evict, I think that guerrilla gardening one radical and awesome solution for some urban poor.
I really need to go over to that economist site and read the debate. Leaving real human beings out of the equation when "problem solving" is how unsustainable policies and practices are created and take hold in the first place.
Put people before profits!

nemo said...

Higher prices are inevitable. I am not sure they are good or bad. Our practices are unsustainable and much of the price of food is in shipping.

There is no doubt that we produce too much food and waste too much of it too. The BBC had an article on waste based on a recent study and the numbers are just ridiculous. Even families who claim never to throw out food, throw out large amounts.

The only "benefit" I can see is that some people will come to their senses and understand what this is all about. Unfortunately, the majority will just scream for lower prices without even thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the higher prices were eventually inevitable. As far as America goes, I think the results will be a mixed bag of good & bad, along the lines of the comments above. We'll see how it spins out here. In the third world, though, this is a disaster of unthinkable proportions. Mass starvation, eating dirt pies to calm hunger pangs, disease, collapsing societies & rule of law, civil wars, and so on... There is no good to be found here.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Sharon--the Economist position is full of pig shit (or maybe goose shit--it's less useful). The idealogues who congregate at The Economist have shown time and again that they are immune to the cries of desperation, if it would mean sacrificing profits. Because, in their religion, profits will always, magically, eventually, bring everyone up, even if there must be some suffering in the meanwhile. The only minor problem with this position is that it never happens. No matter what they think, profits are not ruled by physics in the same way that water is--wealth does not trickle down.

The price of food is a great example. The pro argument is that increased prices will lead to greater investment and, eventually (of course), greater profits for all farmers, and this will trickle down eventually (of course) to everyone (somehow). But as Sharon pointed out, it's not farmers making profits right now, it's businesspeople. Businesspeople who have absolutely no incentive to reinvest jack or shit into this system--hey, if they reinvested, it might bring prices *down*, and that would lower *profits*, and we can't have that! A little money might get funneled back into the system, but certainly not enough to improve the system. The businesspeople will take their winnings and move on to greener pasture, and we'll still have a food system in total disarray and starvation running rampant, but The Economist will call it a win because 20 new billionaires were added to the world, .

Green Bean said...

I'm not sure that I think there is a benefit to higher food prices. I'd like to think there is. I think there is a HUGE benefit to higher gas prices. When food gets more expensive, though, people tend to go the cheaper route - conventional instead of organic, McDonalds instead of a sit down restaurant featuring local foods.

We are in the midst of a food revolution though. Burpee's seed sales skyrocketed last year so more and more people are "growing their own". I'm not sure whether that is prompted by prices, though, it could be. It is just as likely it is prompted by environmental concerns, what is trendy, etc.

I will say, though, that what we've been doing has not been working. I'm up for any sort of shake up right now. We need one.

Jennie said...

I don't know Bean, I think the faulty logic behind finding good in rising food prices is there in finding good in rising fuel costs. Rising fuel costs don't mean the the oil companies are going to invest in alternatives any more than conventional farmers are going to. The other factor, in my mind, is that the environmental costs are rising too. It's not just a matter of paying more money for the produce, we're paying more clean air, more clean water and more top soil. Energy costs have the same factors. Every new oil rig in areas previously protected is increasing those environmental costs. Not only do those environmental costs affect our standard of living, they are also going to affect the standard of living for our children and their children. So it's not only a question of can WE afford food, but will our CHILDREN be able to afford our food?

Bush said...

personally, i think we ought to take the rights of the food into account. How is a banana supposed to support a family of five when it costs only 49 cents. I think that by paying food more to be eaten by us, we will allow the food to have more children and might eventually solve the world hunger crisis. (if that didn't make sense, pardon me. I'm malnourished)

LatigoLiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LatigoLiz said...

Edited for spelling/punctuation:

I think what it comes down to is choices. Making good choices. Making educated choices. What kind of choices are you making compared to others?? Not saying it’s easy, but everything in life is dictated by choices. How choices affect what you eat, what you spend, what you do is all in your control. Choices, good or bad, cheap or expensive.

Anonymous said...

i can't believe that there's even an argument for the rising cost of food. some people are even mentioning how it will get people out growing their own food. yeah, it'll do that, and it'll also be another factor in polarizing the masses - there will be richer people and poorer people, and less in between. the fact that we're even discussing this indicates how deeply lost we are in this capitalist labyrinth. what an effing mess...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joyce for articulating what came to my mind as I read this.

I think the issues of poverty and hunger in our own nation are casually dismissed all-too-often. It certainly sounds more noble to express concern for the people elsewhere who only get funky gruel once a day, if that. But that doesn't diminish the very real plight of the millions of people in our own country who are suffering in poverty.

I don't think some folks are aware of just how many families can only afford to feed their kids ramen noodles and cheap hotdogs, and who don't go out to eat fast-food because the fast-food is too expensive.

When I count my blessings, being able to afford good food and being able to donate to the food bank, are up there at the top of my list, right after my family being in good health.

So no, there is no upside to the price of food going up. Even if it isn't very good food. That's all that some people can manage to put on the table. I really find it discouraging to read things that sound almost gleeful or gloating, that people will be "forced to eat better", etc. They won't be "eating better", they will be going hungry more.

Sharlene said...

I guess the only good thing is that it encourages those who ave the land to start growing more food. As someone who is the worst financial position I have been in because of my decision to stay home with my children and the increase of costs of everything, I see no real good in higher prices. People should be growing food because it is healthier and better for their families, not because they are forced to. Sadly most people will just start feeding their families more cheap crap. Cuz processed stuff is less expensive. Its sad.

Lamzeydievey said...

on the upside-
now that we can't afford 4 loaves of bread a wk, premade pizza crusts or frozen veggies we have started eating low on the food chain with bulk grains and homemade bread to save $.

on the downside-
most people don't know what to do with a bag of chickpeas or lentils. in order for higher food prices to be taken advantage of people need to be educated on how to make nutritious meals from simple ingredients.

Lee said...

HEAPS of upsides. Here are a few:

- More backyard chooks means fewer factory farmed chickens. Less suffering for the animals, less disease risk for humans, less pollution to river systems from animl waste from mega-factory farms, more manure being returned to the soil from small holders.

- Less waste. More people growing their own, composting, returning cuttings and uneaten food to soil.

- Fewer carbon miles, as people eat more locally, and are more frugal with the dollars.

- Better health, as people eat lower on the food chain, eat out less often, and eat more home-cooked meals instead of takeaway foods.

- Less obesity, as people reduce their junk and treat foods.

- More community, as people share recipes, 'how to' tips, and get gardening.

- More organic food, and less fertiliser, as people at home tend to use organic and heirloom varieties more commonly, and avoid patented species and varieties.

- Less packaging. people becoming more careful with their dollars will not want to spend it on packaging, and will let manufacturers know all about it!

- People buying bulk. Less waste yet again.

- People learning to cook and make from scratch once more.

And that's just the start of what I'm thinking of. I'mm sure everyone here can think of more benefits!

Let's consider the age of oil as a mess we need to clean up, and let's consider change as something that can be wonderfully positive.

As for me, I will NOT miss the road toll, the pollution of cars, overly packaged crap, or drive-throughs.

So, let's raise a glass to an uncertain, but possibly wonderful, future!

Anonymous said...

The Economist's argument is that higher costs may be better for the future, so that we might find ways to eventually attain low costs of food. The argument is obviously not that food costs should be perpetually high!

There is no short-term good to come out of increasing food prices, whether domestically or abroad. In the short run, people are suffering not only from rising food costs but also from surging gas prices and minimum wages that aren't being adjusted for inflation. Higher costs of basic needs causes consumers to tighten spending on things like leisure and non-necessary goods, which in turn causes overall demand to fall, which lessens our country's general economic well-being.

In the medium and long run, however, the current rut that we're in may cause us to seek out better ways to better prepare for and mitigate another crisis.

That is, we might realize that some of our subsidies to big farmers may be destroying us, that not only do we need to watch the supply of food but also the ever-greedy American demand for food and goods, and that as long as the poor and middle class are allowed to be hurt by rising food costs, so too will their mistrust and wariness of the government increase.

Anonymous said...

One group of people who are really hurting from this are the elderly. My parents are both almost 70 and disabled. They receive social security benefits (which total to somewhere around $18,450 per year). Unfortunately, for people such as them, the laws to do with the food stamp program actually exclude them if you can believe it (the claim being that if the sole income is from social security then they can only make X amount and they exceed that amount). So they are left trying to have their own garden (which is actually going rather well) and turning to private charities (such as churches) or food banks to help out. In case people don't know, the food available through these programs can be very limited depending on where you are. My husband and I try to help out what we can, but he is a college student and we ourselves aren't loaded. The elderly, in my opinion, are one of those kind of forgotten groups when it comes to situations like this. Many of them are not able to have their own garden, or work extra, and when you start searching for assistance for them you quickly find that they are not a top priority group in our country.

Bobbi said...

Hope some of you catch my comment. Get a copy of today's (Fri) Wall Street Journal (must subscribe to read online). Front page, above the fold headline: "Food Giants Race to Pass Rising Costs to Shoppers". I raceed to the computer to comment even before finishing it. Things are going to get worse, people.

Anonymous said...

how can the urban poor, who are already struggling significantly, turn to growing their own food or keeping their own chickens? i feel like this is a big joke... but i'll at least entertain the notion for a moment:

first of all, if you don't have enough space in your apartment or house to fit your entire family comfortably, i doubt that you'd have a backyard or any kind of substantial green space in which to have this garden. not to mention, these people might be working multiple jobs, they may be single mothers, they may be disabled or elderly, or otherwise not capable of running a garden (in terms of financial or physical ability, or even have the time to do so).
there isn't going to be less obesity, because people aren't getting better food, they're getting cheaper, lower quality food. obesity is a result of several factors none the less, not simply ones socioeconomic status or diet.
furthermore, lower income individuals often can't afford to buy in bulk, because that would require having more money upfront to buy a larger amount. i.e. buy product A for $5 or product B which is 3x the size as A, but costs $13. well, that would require you to HAVE $13 to throw away up front. some people simply can't do that, they live day by day, and are willing to spend more in the end because it's their only option.
not to mention how damaging it is to the psyche, to know that you aren't sustaining yourself or your family on your own, knowing that you require social assistance, the aid of food banks, neighbours, or others. not to mention, this aid isn't even enough, so one becomes dependent on a poorly run system which is hardly providing the necessities for a healthy life. to know that not only are you living day by day, but you're in debt, you can't save, you have no financial stability, the banks are on your back, etc... how does it help these people to increase the cost of food? how the **** can anyone justify this? if you can even entertain the notion that it's a good idea, then you're probably of a privileged group who just can't understand what it's like to be that poor.

how can one even justify allowing some people to live like this? and then to say that it would help to increase the cost of food? yeah, how about we just kill the poor, and eat them for dinner. that way everyone's happy, and the issue is resolved.

Anonymous said...

I'm finding myself more and more for higher food prices. I know I'm in the minority at the moment, but the benefits are really outstanding.
1. Local food economy.
As prices rise more people are forced into the local food economy, which used to be more expensive, but is now competitive. It's also healthier food and there aren't the shipping and production costs and effects of the big Con-Agra model. People get more educated with their food, often producing something on their own, or getting personal relationships with the producers, which we have lost.
2. Less carbon foot print.
Local food and the inability to afford fresh strawberries in January in MN (which is ridiculous) stops people buying them. Yes the farmers in South America lose some money, but the lion share goes the the big corporate conglomerates and oil companies. Less demand equals less production and transportation and less carbon used.
3. Acceptance of the realities of this world.
We have one plante and that planet can only produce so much. We're of the opinion that the world is limitless and act like toddlers when we're told no. Now that food prices rise, people are begining to see it.
4. Ethanol is getting a bad rep.
I have never liked this idea. It's stupid and a flat out lie. Here are two numbers that the government don't like bandied about. It takes roughly 1.1 gallon of fuel to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. Subsidizing it can hide this for a while, but not forever. Also there's the old saying that it takes a bushel fo Iowa soil to grow a bushel of Iowa corn. An agronomist friend once said to us that it actually takes two bushels of Iowa soil to grow one bushel of Iowa corn. Iowa only has so much soil my friends. Remember that the Fertil Crescent of Mesopotamia, where western civilization began is now called Iraq and it's a desert.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Joyce and Kimberly on this one. Rising food prices will only hurt those who are already suffering - the poor, the elderly.

I think it is horrible for people to assume that folks choose to eat foods that lack nutrition. There are millions who truly can not afford anything else. I know that buying fresh foods from the Farmer's Market and buying organic are much better for me and my family. But I also know that those foods are much more expensive than the boxed mac and cheese or off-brand cans of vegetables that folks can get at the big box stores.

Most of us are fortunate that we have a choice but there are many who are just trying to put food on the table and that means ANY food! And, when it is time for a family treat, most truly can't afford to go to a nice, local foods, restaurant - so they make the sad and unhealthy choice of McDonalds or some other fast food establishment.

And raising their own? That is like anything else, you have to have money to get started - land, chickens, supplies.

So rising food prices may benefit someone, but it will also cause serious problems for those who really need to eat better.

From the lion's mouth said...

"More backyard chooks means fewer factory farmed chickens."

But a lot of people who don't have backyards and just won't have any chicken.

"- Less waste. More people growing their own, composting, returning cuttings and uneaten food to soil."

All very well for people with land. As several people have already pointed out, there's no upside here for the urban poor.

"- Fewer carbon miles, as people eat more locally, and are more frugal with the dollars."

Eating frugally and eating locally are not necessarily the same thing. In fact they can be poles apart - I can buy imported vegetables at the supermarket cheaper than I can buy locally grown at the farmers' market. I'm lucky that I have the luxury of that choice - a lot of people don't.

"- Better health, as people eat lower on the food chain, eat out less often, and eat more home-cooked meals instead of takeaway foods."

Checked the price of wholemeal flour compared with white lately? Cheaper does not equal more nutritious. Vegetables are expensive. Fresh fruit is expensive. Junk full of corn syrup etc actually isn't - calorie for calorie it's a whole lot cheaper.

"- Less obesity, as people reduce their junk and treat foods."

Nope, because see my previous point.

"- More community, as people share recipes, 'how to' tips, and get gardening."

Or more middle class people living in gated communities, so the nasty urban poor can't try to steal their vegetables?

"- More organic food, and less fertiliser, as people at home tend to use organic and heirloom varieties more commonly, and avoid patented species and varieties."

For those relatively wealthy people who have the land to grow their own... sure. Again, the poor just miss out.

"- Less packaging. people becoming more careful with their dollars will not want to spend it on packaging, and will let manufacturers know all about it!"

Last time I checked, packaged foods weren't more expensive. But we can hope, I suppose.

"- People buying bulk. Less waste yet again."

You can only buy bulk if you have the money to buy bulk to start with. You may know very well that a 10kg bag of wholemeal flour is cheaper per kilo than buying 1kg of white flour. But if you don't have the cash to shell out for the 10kg bag (and the space to store it), as many many struggling people don't, then it's too bad.

These sorts of comments basically assume human beings are not all that important - or at least the poor ones aren't.

Anonymous said...

To buy in bulk usually requires an annual membership to the bulk wholesale place (SAM's Club, or Costco in my area - I think Smart N Final might not charge, hmmm.)
I can't afford Costco's $48 individual annaul membership. Luckily I can use the membership my employer has for our office. Still, so much of the food there that you can purchase is highly processed and full of preservatives and High Fructose Corn Syrup. For urban poor this seems like a double whammy. As someone who has lived among both urban and rural poor, the worry is get through the day more then it is thinking long term about food and health. There are so many additional factors that threaten a person's ability to keep making it. McDonalds fill's your stomach so you can at least think past the hunger pangs, and it may very likely employ yourself or a loved one. Daily economic realities of the poor really require a whole different set of strategies from what those who own a scratch of land can do.

Going Crunchy said...

In a broader sense of not seeing the individual faces of those in need I would have to say that "overall" in America it would be a rather grounding kind of thing.

America(not individual or by economic groups) is rather obese and inflated in our expectations of what we have a right to have. We eat too much meat, processed food, and don't really have to work very hard to do so. We have show after cooking show, store after store, and Dino-O-Tainment out the wazoo.

When you break it down into economic groups and those that will be able to cook more, buy fresh, try to grow their own the great disparity emerges that leaves me unable to say if it is good or bad thing.

Joyce's points, and others, are entirely valid. Seriously, you can go right now and walk through a Wild Oats, Whole Foods, etc. and suddenly notice all the "pretty" people as I like to think of it. You can go to a "bargin" store and walk around and see much more of the weight issues, juvenile weight issues, and junk in the trunk. Compare what is in the buggies.

I'm always profoundly struck by noticing these differences after I've been abroad and come back with refreshed eyes. This was one of the things that just struck me between the eyes my first grocery trip back.

Lee said...

There is an excellent segment by Bill Mollison available on Youtube about how to design a permaculture balcony, which will feed 1/5 of the food for a couple of people, and can be set up with minimal cost. He shows how to use wall space and even ceiling space to grow food for urban dwellers.

You don't need to have or spend a lot of money to get a good return on growing food. We're living in an apartment, and are growing beans, onions (two types), carrots, radishes, lettuces (six varieties), yams, pumpkin, tomatoes and celery. All are in big cheap pots bought for .99c each, which I potted in a big bag of mix I paid $6 for.

With the spring, I'll be planting a lot more, and using up the other half of the bag of potting mix, plus the second bag I bought (I got a 'buy one get one free' deal). I'll be planting apples, pears, avocadoes, lemon, lime, pioneer nuts, and persimmon from seed, plus anything I can get my hands on in cuttings. Our local Botanic Gardens allows gardeners to take free cuttings of herbs (something to note!), and I'll be cutting about 20 different culinary herbs, which will of course then cost me nothing :-)

The total cost for all the seeds and pots I have thus far came to about $25. I bought my pots new, but secondhand pots can be bought very cheaply on Ebay and similar, or you can grow in anything that will hold a bit of soil.

The plants don't take up much space - some are on the top of our dryer in the bathroom (we have a combined bathroom/laundry), and some are on the fire escape edging - but we've kept the access free of course!).

Once we get our first crop, we will save the seeds where possible. Information on how to do this is freely available online or through your local Seed Savers group.

As the current supermarket price for just one bag of lettuce is $3.99, I think we'll probably get quite a good cash return on our potted garden.

As an added bonus, free cuttings are on offer from many garden groups, seed savers will provide seeds for free with the asking in many cases, and the 'to give away' pages often have suitable containers for potting.

To get through this won't be easy, and the keys to success won't be whingeing or nit-picking at the positivity and action of others, which I seem to be hearing a lot of from certain pitiable quarters these days.

The keys will be support for each other, being creative, being unafraid to have a go and try new methods of dealing with issues, giving help to people who need it, and being unafraid to ask for help when you need it.

In other words, learning to be a community again :-)

Good luck, everyone, and thanks to Crunchy for such a great topic!

Bill Mollison Permaculture