Slower Food, on a national scale

Last Wednesday I was a panelist in a discussion at San Francisco’s
Commonwealth Club with Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company,
and Jessica Prentice, who coined the term ‘locavore’ and operates the Three Stone Hearth Kitchen. Our event was part of a series leading up to Slow
Food Nation
, the Labor Day weekend foodie extravaganza. Unlike our famous predecessors
the week before, Alice Waters and Eric Schlosser, icons of the slow food
movement, the three of us primarily represent private sector models in action that challenge the dominant
mode of consuming fast, cheap and environmentally-negligent food simply as ‘fuel.’
None of the businesses we represent, however, offers lunch for 99 cents.
Inevitably the question arises amidst these discussions: isn’t ‘sustainable’
food more expensive than what people can afford?

The question is generally well-intended (as it was here),
but it also reflects the current tenor of discussion about sustainable food and
slow food: that it is a luxury only the rich can afford. The ‘environment,’
too, is often seen as rich peoples’ cause
. Of course, though, it is the poor who suffer first and most by
environmental degradation (often in their backyards), unnatural food additives
that contribute calories rather than nutrition, and higher prices that result once
cheap tricks, such as government subsidies for the wrong things, run out or are
no longer deemed a priority. With the biggest price jumps for food in two
, is ‘sustainable food’ too expensive or is it the true cost of food
that needs to take a higher priority among the items we consume?

– Helene York, Director of the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation