Food gentrification, a new buzzword causing quite a stir in the world of social commentary, suggests that as hipsters and the rest of the middle class fall in love with each new food-fad they are pushing prices up for the cultural and class minorities who ate it before it was cool. Mikki Kendall, who is attributed with pioneering the term talks in a guest article for Breaking Black about how these minorities are then unable to pass on their culinary heritage to their children, and worse, are unable to feed their children – not really knowing how to cook healthy meals with whatever is left in their price range. Bitch Media expands on this idea, providing an example using kale which in the U.S has allegedly risen significantly in price since being marketed as a super food.
There are opponents to the theory, including Jason Best, writing for Takepart, who argues that although the average price of kale may have risen, it is still cheap in poorer neighbourhoods and ethnic food stores, it is just the inflated prices in the supermarkets of affluent suburbs pushing up the average. Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week suggests that as the middle class buys more of a new ‘in’ food, farmers will start planting more of that food, and this increased supply will ensure the price stays down. Cooper notes however that foods which require specific growing conditions, such as quinoa, are exceptions.
Joanna Blythman, writes for The Guardian about how quinoa has tripled in price since 2006 so that now those in the regions where it is grown cannot afford it, and have been forced to forsake this traditional food source for less healthy alternatives. Blytham mentions not only these economic impacts, but also environmental impacts of food tastes in the west, discussing deforestation and water insecurity as poorer communities try to make way for preferred crops.
Now I’m not going to mediate on who is and isn’t right, or tell you where to sit on the food gentrification continuum (hipster hater/quinoa convert/decided unbeliever), but I can tell you that none of these articles provide any practical way forward for those who are concerned about the impacts of their food preferences on communities. I certainly don’t have all the answers, I don’t even have many answers, but I figure that the following three suggestions can’t hurt:
1) Don’t waste food – the less you need to buy to feed your family, the less you have to worry that you are inadvertently robbing another family of this ability.
2) Buy from farmers markets or locally owned produce stores whenever you can – after all, the blame for food price rises doesn’t really lie with hipsters because of their inherit hipness, it lies with the major supermarkets who see an opportunity to make more money and exploit it regardless of the impacts on the less fortunate. So take that power out of their hands.
3) If you eat Quinoa, buy Australian grown: Kindred Organics Quinoa, from North-West Tasmania is the cheapest Quinoa available on the Honest to Goodness website!! Check it out at http://www.goodness.com.au/Organic-White-Quinoa-Australian-1KG.html#.U4b_sCjF-Vo