Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grease Trap: Does the Local Food Challenge Smell Like Self-Indulgence?

By John Birdsall
Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 4:54 PM

Call us haters, devil's advocates, or skeptical populists: But does the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge - Chron Food gives lavish coverage to the sustainable eating challenge today - strike anyone else as willfully mandarin? Here's the gist of it, which is described in detail on the Eat Local Challenge website:

To lessen environmental impacts and gain a richer understanding of where our food comes from, participants agree to eat from within their foodshed, an invisible 100-mile ring around their kitchens. The Pennywise wrinkle throws affordability into the mix. Locavores will agree to spend no more than $10 per person for daily meals.
The Chron-sponsored preview follows three households who struggle, mostly, through a week of local grazing. There's a Marin retired couple who have lots of time to peddle to the farmers' market. And a Mendocino restaurant chef and his wife; they forage and keep a garden. Then there's the Chron staffer, a single, so-called hipster form the Mission. She struggles over coffee and an expensive ice cream cone. Here's where we get skeptical: What's the point of struggling to find substitutes for black pepper and coffee? Shouldn't those of us concerned with food issues better spend our time organizing to influence the 2007 Farm Bill, or raising money for People's Grocery? Unless you make decisions for an entity like Chez Panisse, whose mission involves influencing fellow businesses to reduce impacts, isn't a complex scheme of artificial limitations on your daily life the kind of self-indulgent game that elites love to play? Isn't it a bit like masturbation? As the father of the Chron staffer is quoted as saying: "This challenge sounds like something for people with too much spare time." Sometimes father really does know best.

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