I’ve had a few excellent conversations lately about the true meaning of “food security.” In the past, the conversation has centered around the need to bring grocery stores into low-income neighborhoods whose residents either had to travel far distances to purchase their groceries – not easy for those relying upon public transportation — or depend on local corner stores and liquor stores for their groceries. This means that, in may low-income neighborhoods, residents have little access to fresh, healthy foods. This set of circumstances has traditionally been referred to as “food insecurity.”
However, more recently, the conversation has shifted. There is now an awareness that true food security requires more than the presence of a large, corporate grocery store. The healthy food available should also be culturally relevant. And it should be provided by locally owned and operated businesses whose profits stay within the community and help boost the local economy.
With the popularity of this past weekend’s Small Business Saturday, it is clear that there are important connections between the desire for true food security and the desire to promote local businesses. It comes down to two factors: ethics and culture. We want to support local businesses because they tend to have high ethical standards. And their practices are often more transparent. In addition, we support them because they help to maintain local culture. Whereas the presence of chain stores makes one town look just like the next, unique local businesses spring from the local cultural ethos and help that culture continue to thrive. What’s more, locally owned and operated businesses support local economies, rather than funneling their profits back to distant corporations.
This holiday season, those choosing local ingredients for their celebratory meals and those purchasing gifts from local vendors are really working to promote the same idea. That is, the notion that residents are best served when their local cultures are thriving.