Monday, June 15, 2009


by Jim Hightower

The big demand in food these days is that it be locally-produced. A new term has even been coined – "locavore" – to describe consumers who want the freshness and sense of community that comes from eating the bounty of small-scale, local producers. You know, hometown guys like Frito-Lay and Hunt's Foods.

Proving that no standard of integrity is so pure that it can't be perverted by corporate profiteers, these giants of industrialized food production are reaching out with their deep-pocket advertising budgets to co-opt the locavore label. Frito-Lay – a multinational, multibillion-dollar, agribusiness giant, that buys two billion pounds of spuds a year from hundreds of very large farmers to make Lay's potato chips – is presently running national television ads trying to convince viewers that its farmers are just local folks.

"We grow potatoes in Florida," declares one of its corporate providers in an ad imbued with bucolic, down home imagery. Not mentioned is that the potatoes he grows on a sprawling 800-acre spread end up as chips that are sold in New York, California... and beyond. Local?

ConAgra, the conglomerate that owns Hunt's tomatoes, concedes that it can't literally be local in the geographical sense. So, says a consultant working on Hunt's current locavore ad campaign, "the question is, how do we take [local] to that next level?" In Corporate World, you see, "local" is not a place, but a figment of marketeering imagination.

Jessica Prentice, the food writer who coined the "locavore" tag, begs to differ with that definition. The local food movement, she explains, represents an ethic of small-scale production, ecologically-centered in a place, and based on personal relationships within a community. "Large corporations peddling junk food," she says, "are the exact opposite of what this is about.""

When 'Local' Makes It Big," The New York Times, May 13, 2009.

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