Wednesday, May 18, 2011

'A Problem We Need To Solve'

Cost: $11.50. Taste and nutrition: priceless.
The Roanoke law firm of Glenn Feldmann Darby & Goodlatte held a kickoff celebration for the seasonal re-opening  of the West End Market--an experiment in bringing fresh, local food to a poor section of town--last night in downtown Roanoke and an uncomfortable fact struck me as I walked away with a few groceries.

Farmers had set up to sell their marvelous foods on the street beside the law firm and lawyer Paul Beers provided those of us who attended the firm's reception with some personal script (with his picture on it) to buy $5 worth of groceries. I left with what is pictured here: a bag of mixed baby greens, two hydroponic tomatoes and a pound of strawberries. The haul cost $11.50. I'm not sure people who live in the West End can generally afford $11.50 for that amount of food and if there's a problem in this, that's it.

Fresh, healthy, locally-grown food is a red hot trend among those with good jobs and educations that include university. Advocates want everybody to eat like this. That is a nice goal, but it is wholly unrealistic, given the fact that organic food requires more land and more labor to grow--hence, its expense. It often costs double what a family would pay at Kroger for the same foods. OK, the foods are not the same. The organic stuff is better.

When you're living close to the edge, though, the difference in taste and nutrition is much less of an issue than the cost. Families eat those loathsome dollar meals at fast food restaurants--the ones that make them fat and stupid--because that's what they can afford.

Maryellen Goodlatte, one of GFD&G's lawyers and something of the Grand Dame of the Roanoke bar, put it concisely, "It's a problem we need to solve."

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