Local Food Is Not the Answer to Economic Ills
Some locavores argue that the government should encourage local food consumption in order to create a more stable and sustainable economy. I’ve countered that a geographically diverse food supply is more reliable than any local food supply.
Today I have an example. The following entries are from Whole Foods’ Twitter feed:
Recent storms flooded CA central coast berry fields. Strawberries & raspberries to be in extremely short supply for the next 10-14 days.
Alternatives during the berry shortage – frozen berries, fresh mangoes, apples, pineapples and grapes. Thanks for your understanding!
Imagine if you lived in California’s central coast, and those berries were your local food. If you confined yourself to local food, a flood would mean no more berries. You couldn’t switch to frozen berries shipped in from somewhere else, nor could you eat apples or pineapples from another region. You would have to substitute with something that was grown in the area, that was either unaffected by the flood or harvested and stored shortly beforehand. And, because all the other locavores would turn to those same alternative foods, there would be an increase in demand for them without a corresponding increase in supply — meaning more shortages.
Limiting yourself to local food is not a sustainable practice, although I doubt this economic analysis will dissuade locavores — and that’s not the point. There are many reasons besides economics for people to buy local produce now and then, or even to adopt a full-time locavore lifestyle. But the idea that taxpayers need to contribute to the development of local food for the good of our economy is unsupported by evidence.