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When Eating Locally Is Bad For You

Photo by JGNY

It’s pretty easy to eat local food in New York City.  Scattered throughout the five boroughs are farmers markets and CSAs are plentiful.  Since I moved to Brooklyn I’ve joined the Park Slope Co-op that displays a map of its farms and suppliers on its website.  There are also plenty of restaurants that feature local and season foods on its menu (I recently went to Nick and Toni’s Café, which I highly recommend)

And for those desiring to gather and produce their own local fare, we have illicit urban agrarian societies in New York that go foraging or keep bees.  But as it turns out, not all local foods are created equally.

Monday’s Daily News ran an article on toxicity of local fish – and despite the danger, how many low-income people are turning to fishing as a source of food.  This raised all sorts of conflicting thoughts for me.

1. OMG! we have polluted our local waters so badly that we shouldn’t eat what they produce.

2. We have a society where we have hungry people eating toxic food.  What can we be doing about that!

3.  Another question comes to mind, similar to the one raised the other day by Liz Schwartz, but is “eating locally” elitist?

I’m curious about others thoughts and concerns.  Please leave a comment!

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2 Responses to “When Eating Locally Is Bad For You”

  1. Adam Says:

    You can easily eat fish that is not local that is also bad for you. Mercury and chemicals abound especially when we consider how much factory farmed fish is available in supermarkets…and you guessed it…most of it is pretty cheap.

    This is not just an issue of fish but of how the entire “local” food movement has, until now, basically marketed itself to those who are willing to drop 5 dollars on a cucumber or on a piece of cheese that would last a family of 4 about an hour.

    It’s also worth considering that there are countries whose entire economy, like Ghana (pineapples) or Chile (grapes) that depend so heavily on the export of one or two produce products. What happens to those countries when, after our government has basically forced them to produce for us, we turn our backs and say no thanks – that food has traveled to far for us.

    But i digress. we do need to strike a balance – to support local farmers (and fishermen) and those who pick fair trade pineapples in Ghana. But this doesn’t get to the core of the issue either. Maybe it’s not about local food, or sustainable food, but GOOD (as in good for you) food that supports and rejuvenates urban communities with jobs and opportunity.

    A response to this quandary is found in this article that was in the New York Times magazine this past week: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07.....f=magazine

    It certainly will help inspire my backyard gardening the rest of this summer.

  2. judi Says:

    Thanks for bringing this up. We have a bluefish tradition in Southern CT which has fallen out of favor in the last generation because 1. The fish smells bad and tastes greasy, and 2. It’s full of heavy metals. But that doesn’t stop whole (primarily poor immigrant or Italian-American) families from going out for a day’s fishing on the bridges or piers of New Haven, with off-loading oil tankers a stone’s throw away. Our harbor is currently off-limits for oysters, which had previously been a major industry here, but that doesn’t stop people from fishing in shallow waters that are only dredged when the silt is too much for ships to dock- because of all the arsenic, PCBs and other nasty stuff that lives there.

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