Guest post: Food accessibility is a vegan issue »
I was sitting at my desk, staring at my coffee, when my co-worker walked in with a bag of cherries and said, “God, organic fruit at the farmers’ market is fucking expensive.”
At least we have a farmers’ market nearby selling local, organic fruit and vegetables, I thought, and my co-worker has the resources to buy some. When discussions of veganism and privilege come up–as they seem to be doing with increased frequency—there’s some understandable defensiveness from vegans, and some valid concerns that the “veganism is for rich white people” trope is both wrong and insulting to anyone not rich or white. But there remain striking differences food access across communities. This should concern everyone, but especially us veganism advocates.
A recent survey [pdf] by the very rad Food Empowerment Project (FEP) lays out the data. Looking at Santa Clara County specifically, they found that:
“On average, higher-income areas have twice as many locations with fresh fruits and vegetables compared to the lower-income areas…14 times more locations with frozen fruit and six times more locations with frozen vegetables.… In addition to being generally less available in lower-income areas, the variety of produce is also limited in these locations.”
Some of these findings are helpfully laid out in chart form:
Other sections point out things that should be obvious to those of us who live, work, or generally exist in urban cores, but are worth stating plainly: there are fundamental differences between supermarkets and small corner groceries; meat and dairy alternatives are virtually nonexistent in many communities, despite high levels of lactose-intolerance in some of those populations; that, along with being “cash-poor,” many providers in low-income communities and communities of color are “time-poor,” way too overstretched by multiple jobs and responsibilities to travel to a distant shop for decent produce, return home, and prepare dinner. The FEP study calls this “environmental racism.” Check out the full thing, along with their recommendations, here [pdf].
Your ability to make healthy food choices shouldn’t depend on your address or income, and lack of access to fruits and vegetables amounts to a public health crisis in many places. The growing trend of farmers’ markets accepting food stamps is a welcome development: by expanding access to good food rather than restricting access to junk, it’s also a much smarter, and less paternalistic and classist way to encourage people to eat well. (Another option would be to eat all the locavores, provided they were humanely put down, with reverence for all that they would provide us, but that’s a topic for another post.)
As vegans, it should matter to us especially. When we tell others to go vegan–which we should–it’s crucial to consider what barriers might stand in their way. Some are ideological, reflective of long-standing habits and assumptions, but some are more practical, like whether they can get to a market that sells non-gross apples. The ability to do so does mark a sort of privilege that needs to be recognized and dismantled, even if anti-vegan internet goofballs like to cite it for their own purposes.
And finally, concern about food security and access shouldn’t be the domain of a borderline-sociopathic “locavore” community that seems to raise these issues only to argue that we need to kill chickens in our yards. We shouldn’t cede that ground (sign a petition against at-home chicken-slaughter right now!). Everyone deserves decent food, produced sustainably, locally, and without poisons, and vegan advocates should be on the frontlines of that push. The FEP’s work is a good place to start.
Rick Kelley is a recent transplant to the Bay, having fled the brutal Minnesota winters for warmer climes. He spends his days at a Oakland workers’ rights nonprofit and his evenings probably playing moderately accurate renditions of Propagandhi songs with his awesome partner and their rescued pup, Bandit. He’s also currently active in organizing against Oakland’s “Let’s All Kill Some Chickens in Our Yards For Fun” proposal. He used to blog, and might do so again someday.
Charlie Brooker’s modest proposal »
Charlie Brooker has something to say about our attitude toward food and its presentation. As a satirical genius, he uses the porniest, most revolting writing possible to address it. Here he describes the experience of eating the titular item at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is a sort of “upmarket fast-food chain.”
You’ve got two options: tackle it with a knife and fork (the coward’s way out), or dislocate your jaw in the manner of a boa constrictor swallowing a foal, and heave it into your gullet, driving it home like a Victorian taskmaster pushing a buttered eight-year-old into a narrow chimney flue[.]
Order chips, incidentally, and your burger will be accompanied by a generous helping of deep-fried slabs the size and weight of piano keys. Eat there at lunchtime and you’ll spend the rest of the day feeling as if you’re incubating an immense, spherical beef-baby. And caesarean delivery sadly isn’t an option. Before bedtime, you’ll understand how it might feel to give birth to a banister.
What, he asks, makes eating this, with nearly twice the calories of a Big Mac, more socially acceptable than eating a Big Mac?
It seems the key to nurturing a successful chain of fast-food restaurants in modern Britain is to provide a less reprehensible version of something popular…while still enabling your customers to indulge in potentially ruinous gluttony.
I don’t think that that is exclusively a British solution. Isn’t In-N-Out the respectable person’s “drive-thru” burger? Or places like Fuddruckers, Five Guys, and Steak ‘n Shake? Fundamentally, they are McDonald’s: a place to get a quick, “American” meal. You’re still eating nightmare-food, it just comes in nicer packaging.
Charlie Brooker, however, because he is clever and disgusting, has a genius idea for environmentally friendly breakfast cafes: if you want bacon and sausage, cut the meat off your own body. It’s not nearly as offensive as the original Modest Proposal, as you’d only be eating yourself; it’d be vegan-friendly, for those of us who don’t feel as animal-rightsy as the rest of the group. You might even be able to use the lost blood to make black pudding, he says.
There’s something more to that idea—beyond the self-cannibalization joke: You can have as much meat as you can want, so long as you’re willing to give of your own life to get it. What would that mean if it were true? Right now, eating meat robs the future to reward the present; people in wealthy countries won’t feel the effects of their choices for some time—less the occasional terrifying food recall—but less developed nations have to make immediately felt compromises to support a meat industry; and some countries, like Tuvalu, could disappear under the ocean because of global warming.
That raises the question again: what price meat? If people continue eating it despite the horrific treatment of animals on massive factory farms; despite the human health risks posed by those farms; despite the destruction of land, including rainforest, not only to raise cows but to grow soybeans and corn to feed those cows—if they still want to indulge in tasty flesh, let them eat their own. Then maybe they’ll see it as valuable, instead of the commonplace junk they take for granted now.
Plus, you’ll be able to tell the vegans by how fat and happy we’ll be.
Taxing meat, hacking Ike’s, saving birds & bunnies, junk science and MORE in this week’s link-o-rama »
I missed you guys! So much, I made this big old link-o-rama just for you! That means extra swears, I know how much you love the dirty stuff.
LATE EDIT, UGH: In Defense of Animals and the SF Vegetarian Society are co-hosting a vegan halloween party on Saturday, Oct. 31! Check out A.Muse Gallery at 614 Alabama St. tomorrow from 7 to 11 p.m. for comestibles (Sugar Beat Sweets!), a silent auction, a raffle, a costume contest, and MORE! The entry fee is a sliding scale starting at $7, and all proceeds “go to the animals.” Not sure what that means, exactly, but if you are into costumes and vegans, this sounds like the place to be.
A dude who owns a fish restaurant was caught hell of illegally fishing, and SF Gate commenters are up in ARMS about it. The way they are all “PUT HIM IN THE STOCKS” [sic] and PROSECUTE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW and shit, it’s as though the fish were their own mothers (they are their murdered dinners).
“Revival pork products”? FUCKING DISGUSTING.
Hey, selfish first-world lard-ass: Peter Singer is ready for you to grow a conscience, and if it means taxing the hell out of your meat—what with it being both a product and cause of death and destruction—then by golly you will pay $50 a pound for that “organic” “grass-fed” “sustainably grown” piece of a “happy cow.”
Here is an adorable list of San Francisco food firsts. Did you know they invented the martini here? Notably absent is the debut of Greens, the first fine-dining vegetarian restaurant in the U.S. Still, we also invented Chinese delivery! Such a city we have.
We just want to remind you about Daiya Cheddar Biscuits. We’ve made about 15 batches this week and they just keep getting better. So fast and easy and delicious, no reason not to! Make them with this vegan gravy recipe and get ready for worlds. to. collide.
Back to the terrible: An undercover investigation by the Humane Society resulted in the temporary shut-down of an especially fucked up slaughterhouse in Vermont. The best part is that the plant was for killing veal calves, who were horribly tortured before their painful deaths. AWESOME.
But what’s that you say, Ezra Klein, humane veal? No joke, you guys, especially you vegetarians: “If you consume dairy, you should eat veal.” Because otherwise what happens to the bouncing baby boy calves born of the must-give-birth-to-give-milk dairy cows? The onus is totally on YOU THE CONSUMER who already DOES NOT EAT VEAL, duh. The world is so fucking simple sometimes!! [thanks for the tip, Tessa!]
The International Bird Rescue Research Center needs your help! There’s been a big algal bloom in the Pacific off the Oregon and Washington coasts, and it’s covered thousands of seabirds with “an unusual sea slime.” The effect on the birds is similar to that of an oil spill—it’s really awful. What you can do is give the IBRRC your money, to fund its team and local rescue groups. Save the seabirds!
On Monday, Nov. 2 at noon, Go Vegan radio host Bob Linden and the San Francisco Green Party Animal Advocacy Working Group will lead a “peaceful protest” against KPFA for airing anti-veg propaganda, a.k.a. a bunch of dumb lies. The protest happens outside the KPFA studios at 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley.
Let’s look at restaurant reviews in the Chronicle! Except, hang on, what’s Michael Bauer written about this week? The SFUSD’s gross-ass lunches! The school offers both milk and chocolate milk, which is federally mandated despite having “high fructose corn syrup listed as the second ingredient and corn syrup as the third.” Dang you guys, that is nasty. Help fix things with the Healthy School Lunches program, OK? Because ALL KIDS deserve good, cruelty-free food, and improving our free, mandatory public education institutions benefits all of us. For real.
SaveABunny needs your help! The SF Animal Care and Control shelter is overflowing with rabbits who need foster (and forever!) homes. Please contact Marcy Schaaf at 415.388.2790 or via the SaveABunny website to volunteer. Buns are the sweetest, we swear. Can you deny?
Our BFFs at Sugar Beat Sweets will have fancy, original, super-duper t-shirts soon! Designed exclusively for them by Herbivore Clothing's Josh Hooten! We will take two in every color, please (dinosaurs are notoriously messy eaters).