Sustainable Food

More on our time spent in Blighty over the holidays, I’m afraid.  This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.  TealGreen in-laws live in the 2nd biggest city in England in a nice area, but the local high street is a real mix of rough and nice, so it’s eye opening to me to see the amenities that are available there.  Since the last time we visited, a new Co-op supermarket has replaced the old Kwik Save – and that’s a very good thing.  The Kwik Save was cheap and not very cheerful and seemed reflective of the rough aspect of the high street.  The new Co-op astounded me, in a good way.  Here are some pictures from inside the market:

I include these photos not because they are beautifully presented or earth shattering, but because they say so much about the difference between where thinking about your food and where it comes from is between here and Europe.  Can you think of a single supermarket in the US that would market itself in this way in its stores? Even Whole Foods doesn’t do this. The Co-op is a normal, dare I say it, not even particularly high end supermarket in the UK.  And it’s extolling the virtues of sourcing local food, sustainable fishing, free range organic eggs, fair trade coffee and using renewable energy.  BRAVO!  This is a market in a city in a very mixed socio-economic neighborhood.  And it’s selling a wide range of food at pretty affordable prices and treating its customers like grown ups, explaining its commitment to not just selling the cheapest crap they can get away with.  And you know what?  It’s working.

This is where the conversation needs to get to in the US.  There’s no doubt that there’s food poverty in the this country, and that’s a different discussion.  But for many Americans, they are spending their food dollars mostly with a view to cheapness rather than value.  Learning the difference will be an important first step to creating a more sustainable food economy.


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