I am following current media coverage regarding the amount that UK farmers are paid for a pint of milk (it’s probably a litre these days). It strikes me as a reflection on the embedded ways in which we (and I do include myself) think about food and drink, and its cost. How many times do you look for the so-called BOGOFFS? (Buy One Get One Free) How many times are you drawn to something because of its price rather than a specific desire for it, or its quality? It is now endemic to our culture that we want everything on the cheap, forgetting that food, drink and its production is not a cheap process? Are some of the people complaining about people coming to this country and ‘taking our jobs’ (and this does not include me) the very same people who want this cheap food and who are, therefore, accepting the possibility that those same people are doing the cheap labour that makes the cheap food wheel keep turning? It is not a single layered issue.
The supermarkets are driving down costs at a price; that price is quality, fair pay and massive amounts of food waste. Do we simply blame the supermarkets and continue to seek out those offers or do we do something about it, as individuals and communities. It is all too easy to believe that we can have no impact on the supermarket giants and conclude, “what’s the point?”
The Starfish Parable is a good story to remember when feeling like this. It tells of the man walking along the beach who observes a boy picking up starfish and returning them to the sea. His was a ‘what is the point?’ question; the boy would never save them all so, in effect, why bother. The boy’s response is humbling; as he threw a starfish far into the sea he replied that he had saved that one. Maybe something to remember as we do our food shopping? One person alone may not be able to change the way the supermarket giants operate but they can change their own habits and influence change in others.
The move toward localism as it has been dubbed is leading the way, encouraging us to shop local, support local farmers, growers and producers. It is certainly worth looking at and I am often surprised that shopping at my local farmer’s market does not, in fact, turn out to be a costly exercise. Added to that the significant increase in quality, actually meeting the producers and having that sense of community makes a real difference, as does finding that local shop that bakes and sells its own bread and rediscovering how bread should really taste.
Whatever we do from hereon in will affect not only our own futures but that of the next generation. It is worth remembering that, sometimes, offers really are just too good to be true.