The Value of Local

Before I embark on the New Orleans Eat Local Challenge, spanning throughout June, I want to explore whether eating locally is worthwhile.  Is there really a benefit to eating locally?

The benefits of local food have been lauded for decades, albeit with a few detractors rearing their heads.  Among the enumerated pluses are: supporting of the local economy by keeping money with your neighbors rather than funneling it out of the state or even the country; bolstering small local farms, which are generally far more diverse and less environmentally degenerative than their industrial counterparts; and eating food that is prime in both nutrition and taste.  Even mainstream publication Consumer Reports has noted that, if nothing else, eating locally is a nationwide trend that likely offers a variety of positive side-effects.

Local food is often promoted as a more sustainable way of eating.  Per Sustainable Table, the "the leading sustainable food resource for consumers", "[s]upporting local/regional food systems helps support local, sustainably run farms, can help protect our health and the health of our communities, and helps stimulate local economies." 

The benefits of "eating locally" are not universally accepted however.  Philosophers Peter Singer and Jim Mason tear the idea apart pretty thoroughly, in fact, in their book The Ethics of What We Eat.  Singer and Mason identify three primary reasons to eat locally: 1) to help local economies, 2) to support family farming (thus beating back industrial farming), and 3) to protect the environment.  They then proceed to disagree with 1 and 3.

On the first point, they argue that it's more important to support poorer farmers in developing nations than our local farmers.  To this argument I must call shenanigans.  They use an example that it is better to help developing world farmers feed their children than to help farmers in San Francisco put their children through college.  To this I'll say two things: a) I don't live in San Fransisco; pretty damn far from it in fact.  b) When we purchase produce grown in developing countries, precious little of that money goes to the people who grew it.

To wit, most of the produce sold falls into the globally shipped category, and yet the farmworkers involved in that trade are still unconscionably poor.  Why?  Because it is the middle men who keep the money.  It never gets to the producers - why would they share it when they don't have to?  The farther the food travels, the smaller a portion of the profits the farmers actually see.  Buying more of this food will not give these people more money.  Only changing the system will do that.  Thus, shorter chains are better for farmworkers.

While the philosophers don't dispute that buying locally helps to preserve small family farms, they explain that locally grown produce can be more environmentally destructive than produce shipped long distances.  To make this point they do the carbon footprint math on hothouse-grown tomatoes vs. those vine-ripened and then shipped - and indeed the hothouse come out as the villain.  This supports the idea that it is best to eat locally and seasonally, an idea which I'll agree with fully.  Luckily, there is nearly always local produce naturally in season here in Louisiana.

Singer and Mason also fail to address the most self-serving of the benefits of eating locally: local food tastes better and is more nutritious.  This isn't just sales pitch nonsense.  Because local produce is picked later in the ripening process, travels far less distance, and spends less time in storage, it generally offers more dense nutrient content and better flavor than "conventional" counterparts.

Sustainable Table agrees that there are issues with making "local" the only bar against which food is measured, noting that "industrial food in disguise" can be "greenwashed" or "localwashed" to seem more sustainable than it is.  After all, as I've mentioned before, even mega-piggeries are local to someone.  Buying locally also doesn't guarantee that farmworkers are treated or paid well.  However, "plenty of local food is produced according to the highest sustainability standards."  It is important, then, to know where your food comes from - but to know more than that as well.  Fortunately, when you are at a Farmer's Market you can just ask.  I dare you to try that at a chain grocery store. 

Finally, it's important to note that arguments against local food sourcing often fail to recognize just how fragile our global food system is.  Any interruption of that global system, whether it be weather events, fuel shortages, crop failures, or any other disruption of any one of the many carefully timed moving pieces of the food system can cause catastrophic food shortages, and no part of the world is immune.

As economist Andrew Simms noted in his essay "Nine Meals from Anarchy," "[c]ivilisation's veneer may be much thinner than we like to think."  Local food structures are more resilient in the face of these pressures in a number of ways.  For example, shorter food chains provide fewer opportunities for troubles such as fuel shortage or blockage of transportation routes, and small local farms hold far more biodiversity making them less susceptible to crop failure.

Eating locally is not a perfect answer to all of our food system woes.  Of course it isn't - there is no such thing.  Regardless, it has value and is a worthwhile pursuit.

Aren't you glad we put that to bed?  I am.  Let's get on with eating locally!

The photographs accompanying this post were taken at the French Market Crescent City Farmer's Market, held every Wednesday from 1pm until 5pm.


Let's Eat Local!
NOiG Joins the Eat Local Challenge

Hi all!  I hope you all enjoyed NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week - I know I did.  The meal I had at Sneaky Pickle the night before Veggie Fest will not soon be forgotten, that's for sure!  And how cool was Veggie Fest itself?!  Great weather, great music, great food, great people.

Well guess what?  June is going to be just as exciting!  The New Orleans Eat Local Challenge is challenging itself (ha ha) to be more vegan-inclusive this year.  I've joined the challenge (yes, at the ultra-lenient level but still).  I hope you do too.  Note that it does cost $25, but you get some nice perks in return.

Also, I hope you can join in on some of these awesome vegan-friendly events - I hope to be at a number of them myself!  All of this info is also collected in a Facebook event called NOiG Joins the Eat Local Challenge!
What a month, eh?!  Will you won't you join me for this awesome intersection of local foods and veganism?  I hope so!


Announcing the NOiG 2016 Scavenger Hunt WINNERS!!

Friends, it's the moment you've all been waiting for.  Via random drawing, the winners of the NOiG Scavenger Hunt are:

THIRD PLACE WINNER: "Donutt Monut"!!
Ms. Monut got her entry in on time - just barely! - and did an admirable job searching the city for all the items.  In the process, she discovered our unofficial City Bird, the feral chicken!  She also solved the bonus item riddle.  And discovered some fabulous local vegan art to boot!

SECOND PLACE WINNER: a *tie* between Maggie Dyer and Alan Berg!
These two explored the city together, and from the looks of it had a great time doing so.  I think they'll enjoy sharing some lovely chocolates and exciting cookbooks.

and FIRST PLACE WINNER: Adrienne "Ajax" Johnson!

Adrienne is a pro at vegan scavenger hunting, being a 2014 champion at the sport.  I hope you enjoyed your chocolate Adrienne, and I hope you enjoy your prize pack even more!

Congratulations to all the winners!  And many thanks to everyone who participated.  I hope you all had fun and discovered some new vegan things around town.  Please come see me at my Nola Veggie Fest table to collect your prize!  Or if you can't, holler at me and we'll arrange a drop-off for this week.

Didn't participate and are now full of regret?  Don't worry!  There's always next year.

See y'all at Veggie Fest!


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Vegan T-Shirt Day at Nola Veggie Fest

Can y'all believe it?!  The 2016 Nola Veggie Fest starts TOMORROW, May 7!  I'm sure you know by now that I'll have a table, doing a thing I'm hilariously calling "I'm Vegan in New Orleans - Ask Me How!"  It's gonna be fun.

Tomorrow is also the last day to find your scavenger hunt items, many of which can be spotted at the Fest itself.  Do you have your set together yet??

It also just so happens that Veggie Fest starts this year on May Vegan T-Shirt Day!  Stop by NOiG's table at the Fest wearing your best vegan tee, and I'll take your pic and post it to the worldwide event* so we can show the world Nola's veggie pride!

*only if you want me to!

As it so happens, there'll be NOiG shirts for sale too.  :)



NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Sneaky Pickle Veggie Fest Pre-Party!

Oh my word y'all, Veggie Fest is almost here!  Can you feel the excitement?  I seriously can.  Let's be excited together, tomorrow night at Sneaky Pickle at 8pm!  You can reply to the Facebook invite here.

Come search for NOiG scavenger hunt items 3, 4, 9, 10, and 14 in the NOiG scavenger hunt while eating some of the very best vegan food in town and getting PSYCHED for Veggie Fest weekend!


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Bubble Tea at the Bar!

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you're all having as much fun this week as I am.  And the fun continues for the rest of the week and on into the weekend!

As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, join us at Namese for a bubble tea, or maybe some pho?  We'll be there tomorrow, May 5, beginning at 6pm.  You can reply to the Facebook invite hereCome search for NOiG scavenger hunt items 3, 4, and 13 while bubble tea-ing or having a lovely dinner.


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Vegan T-Shirts at Twilight!

Hello!  I hope your week is going swimmingly.  Anyone wanna take a walk?  As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, join us in the park tomorrow, May 4 - and wear your very best vegan t-shirt!  You can reply to the Facebook invite here.

Come search for NOiG scavenger hunt item #3 - it should be pretty easy with this event! If we're lucky we'll find #2 as well.  Meet us on the steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art wearing your favorite vegan-themed t-shirt! Once we're gathered we'll walk around Big Lake showing our vegan pride. Dogs welcome!

Rain plan: Let's walk through Lakeside Mall and show Metairie how it's done!  We'll meet in front of the Macy's inside entrance.



NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: TACO TUESDAY!

Hiya!  How was everyone's weekend?  You're about to slog through another Monday, but maybe looking forward to Tuesday will help.  As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, come on out to Dos Jefes Cigar Bar way uptown on Tchoupitoulas tomorrow, May 3, to hit up the Taceaux Loceaux truck!  We'll start at 7pm;  you can reply to the Facebook invite hereCome search for NOiG scavenger hunt items 3 and 7 while getting your vegan taco fix.

Rain plan: we'll meet at Juan's Flying Burrito on Carrollton instead.  :)


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Tea Time at HiVolt!

Hi again y'all!  As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, come on out to HiVolt for tea (or coffee or food or... a scavenger hunt item?) tomorrow, May 2 at 6pm!  You can reply to the Facebook invite here

Come search for NOiG item #s 1, 3, 4, and 6 in the NOiG scavenger hunt while sipping a lovely beverage in a coffee shop that looks like a space ship and maybe having a pastry or some dinner.