The Savvy Shopper – Has Local Become a Dirty Word?

I was not a fan of the 100-Mile Diet or the philosophy behind it when the book was first published. I thought that the idea of such a narrow criteria in terms of what one chose to eat was a bit beside the point. The concept of food miles is a joke (can you really calculate the carbon footprint of a single mango?); sometimes food from away just tastes better than food grown nearby; and as an overall lifestyle change that people could make – for any reason – it would be both impractical and expensive.

The theory got a lot of flak as it grew in popularity, and charges of elitism were prevalent. Only someone with a lot of time and money could afford to search out locally grown grub. And in a society where the food budget is the first thing that gets cut in times of financial crisis, few people would be willing to give up their cheap imports. And let’s not forget about the fact that, here in Canada, many good and wonderful things that we’re accustomed to having in our kitchens – things like olive oil, spices, chocolate, coffee, tea and citrus – all need to come from away.

On the other hand, long before local food became trendy, I was an advocate of shopping locally. It only makes sense that we support the businesses around us. That we buy from the small place on the corner if their stuff is as good as the big guy’s, and that we encourage local artisans and help strengthen our local economies.

Turns out there is a backlash growing against local food. The main proponent being author James McWilliams in a new book titled  Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. I’ve not read the thing yet, and it’s not getting particularly good reviews, so I don’t want to comment on the content, but McWilliams seems to paint locavores as crazy (and maybe that’s true), and has a lot of criticism for organics.

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