[Fwd: When did food stop being local?]
Tue, 03 Nov 1998 12:32:31 -0500
Marla Rhodes wrote:
> I've often seen the statement that "the average food item in the US has
> traveled 1,300 miles before being eaten" (1969, US Dept of Defense, and
> cited elsewhere) and wondered at its implications about our modern food
> supply. Now I wonder just how far back in time one needs to go before
> that figure changes significantly.
> Awhile back I photocopied some pages from a book I came across, published
> in 1926 and titled "Food Costs and City Consumers," written by Charles
> Enos Artman. In it, Mr. Artman analyzes dietary and food distribution data
> in New York City and frets about the high cost of food distribution. He
> figured that "because of the diversity and distance of sources, the
> average length of haul for all perishables consumed in the New York market
> in 1923 was upwards of 1,500 miles."
> Principal sources of fresh fruits and vegetables coming into the NY
> Wholesale Market in 1923, based on rail and water receipts and
> excluding bananas, were California (21.5%), New York (16.5%), and Florida
> (14.1%), with Virginia, New Jersey, and foreign sources at 6% apiece, and
> a handful of other states at 1-5%. "Not more than 10% of this merchandise
> is locally grown (his definition is 30 miles or less), and only a scant 5%
> is sold directly from farmer to retailer....The bordering and nearby
> states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the
> New England States produce only about 30% of the total."
> Mr. Artman figured the total monetary expenditure for food per "man" per
> day, and per family per year, and charts how families in Chicago, San
> Francisco, St. Louis and the twin cities spend signficantly less on food -
> from 7% to 29% below New York costs. His data table, labeled "Adequate
> Dietaries in Six Large Cities" was based on "actual consumption of food
> yielding approximately 3500 calories per man per day, in standard
> working-class families consisting of husband, wife and 3 children aged 2,
> 5 and 11 years, with total annual expenditure of $1300."
> 3500 calories a day! Current USDA Daily Values are based on a 2000
> calorie/day intake. Does this reflect the tremendous decrease in physical
> activity over the past 70 years?
> Mr. Artman then presents data showing how increased food prices in the
> different cities correlate to decreased consumption of perishable fruits
> and vegetables. "Since the expense of city distribution of
> fruits and vegetables is considerably greater than that for the more
> staple foods [supported with studies on pages that I didn't photocopy],
> the higher cost of food to New York consumers indicates that they pay an
> even greater excess for these perishable articles...reduction in the
> expense of distribution should therefore be a stimulus to increased
> consumption...this study of factors affecting the expense of city
> distribution is therefore of particular significance. 'The whole
> industrial efficiency of the city is involved in this question of cheap
> food; and because New York is the great Atlantic gateway of the country,
> the problem of efficient feeding of New York City widens to a national
> problem'(quoted from the Report of the Federal Trade Commission on
> Wholesale Marketing of Food)
> Mr. Artman seems to assume that lowering distribution expenses would
> result in the passing along of savings to result in lowered food costs for
> urban families. Would anyone make that claim today?
> I have another study from a 1959 UMass research report by Frederick Cole
> title "Trends in Food Marketing and Their Importance to New England" that
> cites "In 1956, New England produced about 25% of the unloads of fresh
> fruits and vegetables in Boston, and in 1957 about 33%."
> It seems that from the 1920s-1950s, regionally produced fresh produce
> entering northeastern wholesale markets stayed roughly the same, ~30%.
> Does anyone have any current figures for origin of produce passing through
> northeastern wholesale markets?
> ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** note new telephone # ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
> Marla Rhodes
> Northeast Food System Partnership
> Information and Outreach Coordinator
> Interested in sharing ideas and information about community food security
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