Friday, March 11, 2011

Whole Foods Debate

How do we simultaneously hold and support the values of a local food economy, and what that provides for our families, and supporting a neighborhood with a diverse socio-economic background? I, personally, cannot support the notion of an "affordable" grocery store at the location of the former Hi-Lo, as (without further elaboration) it goes against the very fabric of my being in terms of food safety, and social justice in the food realm. I understand that without the corporate food-agri monster, many folks would not have access to the kind of nutritious food that they now have. And I also understand that many folks cannot afford the local foodstuffs (with the appropriate salaries and benefits to the farmers). It's expensive.

Those against Whole Foods seem to be against it as a symbol of gentrification. Many would argue gentrification began in JP in the mid-seventies when a home now worth $600,000 could be purchased for less than $50,000. Many homes that turned over during that time period have seen better days. There is a single family home for sale on Spring Park Ave for $319,000 - with a 2 car garage! A steal! But the thing is, it has been unkempt for so long, it is practically a tear-down. Whomever buys that house will have to put tens of thousands of dollars into it to keep it from returning to the earth. That'll take someone with some serious $ in the bank (or serious time and skill) to pull it off. How does that kind of neglect in an economically depressed neighborhood contribute to an eventual gentrification because folks on the lower economic scale cannot afford to purchase and fix-up a home that is that far gone?

Complicated.....

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why Is Whose Foods Blaming Whole Foods for Singlehandedly Gentrifying Jamaica Plain?

Why Is Whose Foods Blaming Whole Foods for Singlehandedly Gentrifying Jamaica Plain?
Here's some other folks' take on this.

Whose Food? Whole Foods? The JP Division.

OK, so this topic is beginning to irk me. Even though no one reads this, I thought I would jot down my thoughts. Two questions

1) What does "Whose Food?" really want?

2) What does the loss of Hi-Lo really mean?

OK, I can't tackle the first question, so let's start with the second.

I used to live directly next door to the Hi-Lo (I was on Perkins Street - my dining room window overlooked the alley). The loss of Hi-Lo will mean that no longer will juice from butchering animals be hosed into the alley. It will mean finding ripe avocados in JP will become a little harder - along with cilantro, too. It will mean the closest market to me will not have garlic grown in China. It will mean that the inexpensive foods that Hi-Lo sold will have to be purchased at a larger super market like the Stop & Shop (or is it Shaws?) in Jackson Square. It will mean that the empty Hyde Square storefronts will probably fill up again. It will mean the loss of a cultural icon and a community gathering place.

It will mean that the local latin markets will (and probably already have) see a big increase in traffic. It will mean a better market will fill a spot in the JPNDC building in Hyde Square.

I am friends with Dave and Christine from City Feed, and I know many of the folks who work for them. I support them - a local business that hires local folks, and support a local food economy. I like to get my garlic there, 'cause it is often from a Massachusetts farm. It is more expensive that the garlic from China. But I want to support a local business. I think City Feed has done a really great job building community, and spreading the word about local food, and local CSAs, and other local businesses. But guess what? Labor costs in Massachusetts are pretty high. Jobs are competitive. And so food costs more. Even the Harvest Co-op with their membership, which I must say I frequent, is expensive. And the produce is less than stellar. But they made a commitment to the highest quality food, and at a sort-of reasonable price. I also like the fact that it is small - I personally don't like big markets - Star, Stop & Shop, Shaws, or even Whole Foods. I don't need that many choices of pasta or canned tomatoes, or pre-made salads.

Now, folks from "Whose Food?" and I share the values of a local food economy. Corporate Agri-business is a terrible thing, and has done terrible things to our diet as a nation. In order to take back that control, I, like these folks, have made a commitment to purchasing the finest, most sustainably raised food I can. My family gets the majority of our food from CSAs & food clubs. We get veggie CSAs all year. We get all our meat and fish through local CSAs. We get raw, unpasturized milk from grass fed cows from a local farm in Foxboro. This milk cost $10 a gallon.

From the debate, I am hearing that Whose Food? wants a local business to come in to sell inexpensive food to the Latino community - but I doubt that would include $10 per gallon milk.

I find it hard to imagine the answer to the first question I posed: What does Whose Food? want? I don't think it is about food-justice, which I believe is a social justice issue, and one of the most important issues of our time. It feels more like a vendetta against Whole Foods. But where was Whose Food? when Hi-Lo was selling empty calories to their customers? Where was Whose Food? to calculate the carbon footprint of the garlic, queso fresco, and mangos (all conventionally grown) being shipped from across the world? Where was Whose Food? to advocate for a better working environment for the folks who worked at Hi-Lo? Why isn't Whose Food? picketing daily in front of the market in Jackson Square for different items to be put on their shelves at a demanded price? This feels like an opportunistic jab at Whole Foods that, frankly, has little to do with diversity.