One of the lessons we learned from the Haiti earthquake is that it is necessary for food to be produced locally, in the event of a disaster. Because Haiti imports 75% of its food, when the earthquake struck, there was no way to get anything edible in to Haiti, and people starved.
In the United States, most food is routinely transported in from other countries, as well as from one part of the country to another. Increasingly, our sources of food are dependent upon a vulnerable transportation network of highways, because most of our food is transported by truck. This practice contributes to much higher costs, because 73% of the price is in distribution: advertising, trucking, packaging, refrigeration, middlemen, etc. costs. Only 7% goes to the farmer.
Now, imagine what would happen if the national transport system is disrupted by a natural disaster or an attack. Food that is routinely shipped to places from around the country would spoil on the way there, because the trucks would have to find alternate routes which will be slower and less efficient in delivery. Places that depend on imported food would have starving populations, and as we have seen from history, riots and gangs, making it harder to get food in to the people who needed it. So, as we see, food security is intimately involved with national security. By making sure that there is always a local source of food available, we increase the world's capacity to operate in the case of natural disaster, and be more secure.
For security, you should have a source of food close by
Local food also stimulates the economy. Because the farmer typically receives only 7% of the cost of food, in many cases barely enough to cover costs, that means he is unable to expand and grow more, which would make food more plentiful, and therefore cheaper. In addition, a sizeable percentage of the cost of the food is taken up in the salaries and bonuses of the CEOs of large corporations: think of the frozen food conglomerates, supermarket chains, trucking companies, high-dollar advertising firms, corporate-owned television stations, and the rest. Every dollar spent on those salaries is a dollar from the pocket of an ordinary person--and often, that money is not used in reinvestment, or is used to ship labour-intensive jobs overseas.
With local food, farmers are able to expand their operations and provide employment; it becomes cheaper; and economists estimate that one dollar spent on local food generates the equivalent economic stimulus of four dollars spent at a chain. Local businesses also inspire innovative thinking, which creates more employment, higher salaries for the average employee, and cooperation among related industries--meaning that other industries related to food can now also give a boost to the local economy. And with decreased food prices, families have more to spend on education, cultural activities, and other methods to improve the quality and health of the family. In addition, local farmers are not as likely to employ industrial practices that lessen the nutritional quality of food, threaten biodiversity, and compromise the environment.
Local food growers are also able to network efficiently, because they view growers in other areas not as competition to be driven out of business, but as a resource. Because these businesses are sharing resources, they are providing a more effective means of getting products to the market, thus decreasing food costs and stimulating employment in a variety of industries.
Small farms are more labour-intensive, securing greater employment and higher wages
What you can do:
- Grow some of your own food. Tomato plants are easy to grow, and tomato workers are some of the most-maltreated employees on the planet. An Aerogarden makes this really easy; I started growing my own lettuce.
- Patronize local stores. Not the big chain supermarket, or big box store, but farmers' markets, mom-and-pop grocery stores, or small chains. If you must buy at a big box store, try to buy whatever was produced in the U.S. rather than imported from countries far away.
- Buy fresh meat and produce and freeze your own, rather than relying on commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables or convenience dinners frozen by a large corporation.
- Use leftovers to make your own convenience meals/TV dinners.
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