Sustainable. Think Again.

I could be accused of being too picky. I briefly met a vendor who struck me as sincere in
her contention that the product she lovingly creates by hand truly qualifies as
‘sustainable food.’ Full of ‘natural’ sugar (instead of high fructose corn
syrup), milk and flour from local farms, the ‘artisan’ ice cream sandwich I
reached for in today’s heat was a bit too sweet for my taste, and far too
over-reaching in its maker’s claims.

The front of the label said ‘sustainable’ in bigger font than ‘made from local
ingredients.’ Flip it over and the back label said “Portland, OR.” A great town, but 600 miles from where I bought the product. Those farms certainly weren’t ‘local’ to me, and I know the product had to be delivered in a refrigerated truck. Sugar and milk – numbers 1 and 2 on the ingredient list – also raised a flag. So did the packaging (individual wrapped serving) and portion size (5.3
oz). Let’s not even talk about the price!

My rare treat made me feel guilty. Also mad. In the absence of a solid national
standard for the use of the term ‘sustainable,’ or metrics by which food
producers can measure themselves (and improve), we as consumers have got to be
picky ( — there’s the picky thing again –) and demand a higher standard for
what we buy, especially when the real information is on the packaging in front
of us along side the label’s claims.

-Helene York, Director, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation