In Context:Fair Food, Foreign Foods, and Oneota

In Context:Fair Food, Foreign Foods, and Oneota

by: Lyle luzum, President, Oneota Community Co-op Board of Directors

In the previous article in this series I discussed the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s definition of “Good Food”: food that is Fair (does not depend on exploitation of people), Green (does not depend on exploitation and degradation of the environment), Healthy (encourages health, not chronic illness or obesity), and Affordable (available to all, not just the rich). In this article I’ll explore Fair Food as it relates to food we now so commonly get from other countries.

Our society has a tendency to ignore very real, but hard to quantify costs of things we buy. In our constant effort to drive costs down, our system pretends that, because non-economic costs are hard to calculate, we can therefore ignore them. But these costs are real. One of the costs we pretend not to see is that of human exploitation and the social, cultural, and political impact it brings.

We all now (officially) agree that human slavery is an unacceptable cost to have cheap products. But how about when workers in third world countries labor in banana fields at wages that keep them in desperate poverty so that we can have our cheap daily snack? How about when third world farmers are driven off the land by subsidized, imported American corn and their local economies collapse because there is no work? How about when these people cross illegally into the US in a desperate attempt to make some money to send home to their families and end up working in unacceptable conditions in our meat packing plants? There is a huge social, cultural, and political cost to this human exploitation in those countries, but also in ours, as we in NE Iowa have come to realize.

This is why the Fair Trade concept was developed. Fair Trade certification works to assure that the food results in fair return for those who work to produce it. Around the world Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, bananas, nuts, spices, and other products are bringing living wages to producers. This helps create healthy local economies in the producing country, reduces out-migration, and promotes societal,  cultural, and political stability.

Oneota Community Food Co-op carries many Fair Trade products and strives to provide food that minimizes human exploitation. I urge you to think about who is being exploited to bring you amazingly cheap food. In your food journey, are you sensing that the human cost of cheap is too high? Check out Fair Trade at Oneota.