People can't afford more expensive food because they're spending so much on rent, health care, and more expensive schools.
We've created a society that's increasingly divided the rich and the poor. Food is just symbolic. If we want a just society, this is just one aspect — don't stop at food, but see food as the beginning, a way to engage in a better world.
SFBG What about the conceptual problem? It's fine to repeat the mantra that cheap food is more expensive, but when it's not immediately visible ...
LB We're encouraged to not see beyond our own noses. It's not in the interest of economy for us to think of long-term effects, to see the net. We just see "cheap." This is the money I have in my pocket at the moment. I'll worry about the hospital when I have to go to a hospital, and in fact, it's best not to think about that. So in order for things to change, food people need to see that while they need to collaborate among the food community, they also need to collaborate among the social justice community as a whole. The food community has to see that people struggling for immigration rights, workers' rights, health care rights are their natural friends.
SFBG What are some organizations around the Bay Area that are doing good work?
LB On a really grassroots level, I think la Cocina is fantastic — an industrial kitchen facility that brings in mostly Latina women with the hope that they'll be able to have their own kitchen or restaurant someday. The Columbia Foundation, particularly through their Roots of Change program. Something new to the Bay Area is the Community Alliance for Family Farmers that is trying to bridge the gap between farms and urban centers.
SFBG What are the top issues facing the Bay Area — in terms of food and our ecology — in the next decade?
LB The offshoring of our food production. It's going to happen unless we start yelling and screaming, because it is so much cheaper to grow and produce food in developing nations. A lot of these agribusiness companies want to get out of the US. They want to be someplace where there are no labor laws, there are no environmental restrictions. That's what keeps me up at night. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming, "They're offshoring our food production."
Environmentally, water is the biggest issue that we're facing. What's happening is that farmers are saying, 'I could sell my water for much more money than I could ever make growing food.' Because all of our communities, particularly those built in deserts, are so desperate for water that they will pay anything for it. So as water becomes more politically contentious and expensive, anybody doing agriculture will go someplace where there isn't necessarily more water but they can get it for free or get it illegally. SFBG