For the Starving, 'Eat Local' Isn't an Option

That is the title of an opinion piece at the WSJ in which Adrienne Johnson warns that the local food movement isn't all it's promoted to be.  A few snippets:

More important, local foods do nothing to help the world's poor, who have long relied on export markets for their livelihood. American farmers likewise rely on foreign markets: About 25% of total crop production is exported, according to the Agriculture Department, representing a near $100 billion market that helps offset trade deficits in other sectors.

The "return" to local foods and yeoman farmsteads isn't just impossible. It misdirects political attention away from the problem of world hunger. Local foods simply cannot feed the world.


In this global sense, the often-heard eat-local slogan of "vote with a fork" is well-intentioned but naïve. It doesn't satisfy our moral obligations as global citizens. If you want to cast a food-related vote, find a candidate talking about global hunger and do it at the ballot box.

We shouldn't deny ourselves the privilege (if we have it) of a good meal, but let's not do so under the banner of political action. If you're eating free-range chicken from an organic farm down the road, with side orders of locally sourced arugula and kale, just remember you're not acting politically. You're just having dinner.

I'm glad to see these ideas in the WSJ.  They are many of the the same arguments I've made with Bailey Norwood at the Library of Economics and Liberty and in Chapter 9 of the Food Police.  If you want a whole book on the subject see The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet.