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How To Make Better Food Choices for People and the Environment

How To Make Better Food Choices for People and the Environment

The pros and cons you should consider before shopping at the local market, farmers market, or supermarket

Iro Grammatikaki
Iro Grammatikaki

Mass production has led to a huge decrease in smaller farms as more factory farms are needed nowadays. Did you know that back in 1990, nearly half of the U.S.'s agricultural production was sourced from small and medium sized farms? Now this percentage has fallen to less than a quarter.

In 1985, Missouri had 23,000 independent pig farmers. In 2019, this number dwindled to roughly over 2,000. The number of cattle farms has decreased by 40% too. According to Tim Gibbons from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, just a few multinational companies have monopolized most livestock by using government subsidies and taxpayer money.

These companies intentionally overproduce, which keeps prices low, sometimes even lower than the production cost. This leads them to have less competition, which is how they stay at the top of the market.

On top of that, specialty shops have also fallen by 43% since 2012. This is why more supermarkets open from big chains as time goes on. Now is this a bad thing? It depends on what you're looking for. Let's compare the perks and disadvantages of shopping at the local market, farmers market, and supermarket:

Local Markets

Colorful vegetables at a market.
Colorful market vegetables. Credit: NeONBRAND

Pros

  • Local markets are usually small markets which means you are likely financially supporting a family who lives in the same neighborhood as you.
  • Products in local markets are less processed, coming from smaller producers.
  • It's easier to learn about the history of products.
  • The vibe is friendly, so you can easily chat with the owner or employees.
  • Bulk items are usually available. Bring your own bag or jars to start collecting those grains and legumes!

Cons

  • Compared to a supermarket you will probably find fewer products here. The variety in local shops is smaller, so if you're looking for a big assortment, local shops might not the place to be.
  • Local and specialty shops have fewer products and β€” many times β€” higher prices. This happens because the amount produced is lower but with higher production costs.

Support: The Agricultural Justice Project provides training, resources, and tools to improve labor and trade practices in North America. Many local food co-operatives sell products with their Food Justice Certified (FJC) label.

Farmers Markets

Vegetables being sold at a local Washington farmers market. Build community with WeAct.
Vegetables at a Washington farmers market. Credit: Jordan Christian

Pros

  • Vegetables and herbs at these markets are usually harvested within one to two days of selling. Can you think of a better way to eat healthier and on a budget than affordable food, straight from the ground?
  • Any questions you have can be asked directly to the vendor or even the farmer #SupportSmallFarmers.
  • There are higher chances that the products you get will not contain any pesticides.
  • Besides fruits and vegetables, you can also find legumes, pasta, rice, nuts, and freshly baked goods available in bulk.
  • These markets are usually loud and vivid. The atmosphere is friendly and you can easily start chatting with sellers or even customers.
  • Everything is either equal in price or cheaper than the local market or supermarket for seasonal produce (plus your money is going directly to the food producer's pocket).
  • From an environmental scope, fields tend to be smaller than those of big companies that use larger and more resource-intensive fields.

Cons

  • Only the weather could be an obstacle between you and your fresh food. In the scenario of heavy rain or snow, it's possible that these markets will not take place when they are planned. In those cases, supermarkets and local markets will always be there for you!
  • Depending on where you live, the closest farmers market may be located further away from your home than a supermarket.

Support: Farmworker Justice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the living and working conditions of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. To make shopping at the farmers market a more equitable option for those receiving state food benefits, you can advocate bringing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to your local market. Organize on WeAct to make these changes happen.

Supermarkets

Woman walking down the aisles of Walmart. Join activists and organizers to make a difference on WeAct.
Inside Walmart. Credit: Hanson Lu

Pros

  • If you get hungry around 8 p.m. or forgot to buy something important to cook for dinner later at night, the supermarket will still be open.
  • Large varieties are available at the supermarkets β€” very often so large that you might find yourself standing in the big aisles and staring at many products.
  • Compared to local markets, supermarkets can be cheaper.
  • If you really like a specific big brand of pasta sauce or packaged cheese, a supermarket will have many options for you.

Cons

  • Many times products come from far away and are not as fresh as farmers or local markets.
  • Shopping from the supermarket is much more impersonal as people go there, take what they want, and go directly to the cashier.
  • Your food changes hands several times from the moment it leaves the land until it gets to you, which typically means a larger carbon footprint #FoodSupplyChain.
  • Let's consider the environmental scope again. There is so much unnecessary plastic used in packaging fruits and vegetables even though they have their own, natural protection!

Support: Supermarkets employ large amounts of people who have been some of the unsung heroes during the pandemic, working tirelessly to provide society with our basic needs. Fight to raise the minimum wage for these essential workers.

A meme that makes a comment about bananas being wrapped in plastic even though they have natural protection. Be a better environmentalist on WeAct.

Did you know that in 2010 around eight million tons of plastic ended up in the ocean? Numbers for 2020 are expected to be tenfold with the contribution of plastic use during the pandemic.

Where do you get your food from? Comment below and let us know which of these three types of markets you prefer and why. Download WeAct to discuss food activism with other like-minded people.

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