Monday, October 18, 2010

Rant: Too Many Affluent White People?

The food sustainability movement needs to be more than affluent white people.

At the closing session, Return to the Regional, of the recent Chefs Collaborative National Summit, the above statement was made by one of the panelists. There was little debate or rebuttal of the statement. Instead, it seemed almost as a given, as if most of the attendees agreed with the statement, or at least did not feel comfortable discussing it. But it raises issues in my mind, and I really don't have sufficient evidence to either properly support or rebut it.

Locally, and more anecdotally, it seems to me that the statement is largely true, though it also depends on the definition of "affluent." By affluent, I see it more as those with comfortable incomes, with a decent amount of discretionary income. They are not rich or wealthy, but can be thought of as comfortable middle-class.

There are some non-whites involved in the sustainability movement, but they appear to be a small minority. If you consider the chefs who are involved in this movement, and who participate in many of the events, they appear to be primarily white. Obviously, much more diversity is desirable, for many reasons, and especially if we hope for the sustainability movement to grow and succeed.

At least for consumers, part of the reason for the affluence is the generally higher cost of sustainable food. It is often more costly to create such food, so the cost is commensurately higher. But such food needs to become more affordable for all, or it will ultimately fail. If it cannot serve people of all economic means, then it cannot spread throughout all of our communities.

As for chefs, more work needs to be done with presenting it as a valid career option for children of all races and ethnicities. Promote cooking in schools, let children determine whether it is something that appeals to them or not.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Does anyone have any evidence or studies concerning this matter?

1 comment:

David Dadekian said...

As you know I wholeheartedly agree. That's my main problem with all this good food out there, it's going to a small slice of the people (and I would also agree with you that the definition of affluent can be broadened here). Hopefully the school lunch projects can democratize it some. If education happens across the population spectrum it should spread as the kids grown up.