I went to hear Mark Winne speak last night. He's a hero of mine, having done more than anyone I know of to bring good good to underserved communities. He spoke of two food systems: the organic, local, progressive food system which makes up roughly ten percent of our food economy, and the industrialized food system behind the other ninety percent. It got me thinking again of my own version of food justice, and the most effective way to approach the divide.
Between the two extremes of local, artisan foods and mass produced garbage there's a spectrum of shades of gray that provide reasonably healthy, sustainable, affordable options. I'm talking about most of the items in a conventional grocery store that only have one or two ingredients, all of them pronounceable. Beans, grains, vegetables, and the better meat and dairy products all fall into this category. It's great to get organic beans and grains, but even when they're not organic they're still much better for you than a Big Mac.
It saddens me that these options are so often overlooked in discussions of good food, healthy eating and food justice. You don't have to use premium ingredients in order to cook from scratch and make meals that are better for you in every way than fast food and frozen dinners. So much of the media attention is taken up profiling folks who make extreme gestures like trying to eat only local foods or not entering a grocery store for a year.
My own food heroes are the folks who quietly and sensibly operate in this middle ground, building a hybrid, transitional food system.