Food Snobbery: a response

Apparently Laura over at Starling Fitness didn’t take kindly to my post yesterday about food and community. I got that impression when she entitled her post Food Snobbery.

Let’s deal with her last paragraph first:

Try going hungry for a couple of days, Kate. Even “the food you deserveˮ will taste like a godsend after that.

Setting aside for the moment that this is a simple straw man argument (because of course that any food I eat after three days of hunger will seem like a godsend), explain to me exactly how eating at Applebee’s or getting a loaf of Wonder Bread from Safeway helps the local farmers, the local economies, or even regional food diversity?

The answer is easy – it doesn’t, regardless of how hungry I am.

Let me explain the simple economics of franchises. The dollar I spend at a franchise ends up somewhere else. If I eat at an Applebee’s, my money spent there ends up in Overland Park, Kansas. If I buy my groceries at Safeway, my money eventually ends up in Pleasanton, California. Regardless of how wonderful these communities may or may not be, it benefits me in the long run if my dollars ends up in local banks here in Seattle where they can be reinvested into my local economy, instead of Kansas or California, where I’ll see little to no local economic long term benefit.

Now, if a community decides it has no problem in letting a Starbucks (as an example) into the area, instead of investing their resources and later patronizing a local coffeehouse, that’s a communities right. Just don’t get angry when your money comes back into Seattle, making local upper management at the headquarters here all that more wealthy. Because one dollar spent at a Starbuck’s is one less dollar spent at the local coffeehouse. Over time, what that means is that one less local business will exist, and one less chance of a local business person re-investing in the community that gave them their success.

This doesn’t just happen with coffeehouses, but with restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, farms, etc, etc.

If the citizens of a community don’t understand this basic concept, they’re going to have less influence on the types of food found within the community. If they don’t take the time and effort to change their infrastructure, then they will have to settle for what others from outside of the region determine which products should be sold into their community. And once those products are sold, their money will end up profiting a company hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.

Asheville, North Carolina is but one of many places in this country which are starting to understand this. They realize it’s not just about the restaurants, but their entire food infrastructure, from farm to table and everything in between. They are getting a decent return on their investment with a diverse amount of restaurants and markets, and keeping many farmers and local entrepreneurs in business. They are getting the food culture they deserve.

Conversely, if a city is peppered with Chili’s and TGIFriday’s, and Albertson’s and Safeways, and there’s minimal to no effort being brought forth to change that, then they are getting the food culture they deserve as well.

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