Thursday, July 31, 2014

From Apples to Twinkies: Why Local Food Really Does Matter

by Robert Andruszkiewicz, Just Local Food

Last July, WISPIRG (WI Public Interest Research Group) held a press conference comparing apples to Twinkies at Just Local Food. The event was held to help publicize a report WISPIRG wrote comparing Federal subsidies for corn against “REAL” food. These advocates for a rational Farm Bill in Washington, D.C. are fighting to help even the playing field so that an apple would actually be competitive in the market place against a tax payer-subsidized, corn syrup-laden Twinkie. When we think about food we should think about who produced this product and why.

A Twinkie has dense calories from corn sweeteners that make them deliciously sweet to some while fueling an obesity epidemic in our country for others. Families trying to make each dollar count see any calorie as a calorie.  And with corn sweeteners being artificially cheap, it is no wonder why a Twinkie is cheaper than an apple.

Before too long I realized why local food is important to nutrition and to our local economy.  Would I rather have a healthy local apple taxpayer subsidy over another large corporate handout for unhealthy food? I am not sure but I know there’s a better chance my dollar would stay here with a local farmer rather than go into the balance sheet of a national or multinational corporation.

If I want to be a no tax patriot, would cutting any subsidy for anything help us find our roots back to local food? I do not have the answer, but I suspect a local apple (and now they are here from our local growers) would be more appetizing to our taste and our pocket.

So I asked myself, what is local food and why is it important to people like me, my fellow co-workers, and our wonderful customers? But then why stop there … why not ask why local food is important to the chickens, lambs, sheep, cows, buffalos, pigs, etc?

The answer dawned on me — like the golden sun shining on the trees, shrubs and grasses that make for a healthy farm.

Pasture is LOCAL FOOD for these animals.

That same pasture makes these animals healthy, happy and wise.

We know through the marvel of science that purely grain-fed animals are unhealthy.  That is why they are pumped up with antibiotics. We know that the high caloric intake of grains for these animals produces unhealthy fats that are not good for us either.  Protein, for some of us, is the most desirable portion on our plate and could come from these large agri-business feedlots and egg factories ­— unless we buy local pasture-raised eggs and meat.

Local food for our local critters makes for healthier people. Eating local fruits and vegetables grown by small family farms makes for a healthier community. That is why local food really matters.

Imagine a pasture with Twinkies sprinkled all over and wonder whether the animals eat one or all of them? Will they enjoy it? Will they be healthy? Will the farmer be wealthier? Will they think they are eating local food? Or will they just look at the Twinkie and think they just saw a UFO.

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