Thursday, January 17, 2008

To Market, To Market

Photo credit: Amy Semple

Eating well is not only a philosophy. You may want to eat fresh, local, organic food, but your ability to do so is often constrained by price and access. Can you afford to pay 2-3 times more for the organic version of milk? Does your local supermarket even carry it? Michael Pollan suggests that eating better is easier now than it was 20 or 30 years ago. He may be right, but there is still a long way to go.

One of the best ways to get better prices on good food is to break from the supermarket model. At the supermarket, high mark ups on organic and other healthy food dissuade too many people from buying it. When organic fruit, for example, is too expensive, it ends up being less fresh and thus doesn’t taste as good. It's a vicious cycle because who wants to pay more for bad produce?

Farmer’s markets are one great way to get better produce, but there are others. One way is to buy directly from the farmer through “buying clubs” called CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture). In NYC, Just Food, a non-profit organization, sponsors 50 CSAs city-wide. The way it works is: you purchase a food share (vegetables and fruit, sometime meat) prior to the growing season in exchange for a weekly supply of food through the summer and early fall. It ends up being about $30-40 a week for a mixture of farm-fresh, usually organic, veggies and fruit. You still have to supplement with groceries from a supermarket, but it’s a great way to start.

You sign up for the CSA share in the winter, so look for one near you now. (Click here for locations in NYC, CT, NJ, and elsewhere in the Country) Both Just Food and the Robyn Van En Center at Wilson University in Pennsylvania offer resources for setting up new CSAs, if there is none near you.

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