If You Really Love Your Neighbor, You’ll Eat Local Food

It’s not often I riff on the Ten Commandments (it's much more likely to be the Eightfold Path). But a while back a friend of mine posted a “Suggested Addenda” on his Facebook page with things like “Thou shalt not use thy neighbor” and “Honor thy children.” The ensuing dialogue (boy, does he have an interesting mix of Facebook friends!) got me thinking a bit.

When it says to love your neighbor "as yourself" what does that mean in a society full of people who appear not to think all that highly of themselves based on what we accept and what we subsidize through our private expenditures and public policy priorities? 

This idea that we don’t think highly of ourselves might not seem obvious, since the people of the U.S. certainly appear to have a healthy sense of entitlement in many ways.

That may be true on an individual level, but look at our food as an example of how we so often fail to love ourselves.

We accept and in fact subsidize a food distribution system that brings us unhealthy, low-quality, synthesized food that doesn't nourish our bodies (think high-fructose corn syrup) and that is often grown far away--sometimes so far away that we disrupt local food production in another country so they can grow out-of-season (and tasteless) vegetables to ship to us. 

If I'm taking care of myself I make sure I eat healthy food. I buy it locally and in season so it has amazing flavor and all the vitamins and minerals it can possibly have. I lovingly prepare and preserve it so I can feed myself and my family.

If I love my neighbor as myself then I want my neighbor (and by extension the kids eating school lunches and poor folks on food stamps) to get the same kind of food value. I don’t want his labor exploited or her land and water poisoned with overuse of chemicals just to grow uniformly large, cardboard tomatoes that don’t have as many nutrients as foods used to have.

Cooking up a batch of jam with raspberries
I picked at Green Bluff.

If we loved ourselves, Red Delicious apples would not have turned into the hard and tasteless rocks you can now purchase at any grocery store. They would still have the juicy deliciousness of the less “popular” (but more authentic) varieties I pick at Green Bluff in the fall.

We would eat foods in season because that’s when they’re at the peak of deliciousness. Yes, this means we would—gasp—go without fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. Because fresh raspberries eaten within hours of when they left the plant are amazing. Raspberries shipped thousands of miles are not. The jam I make with raspberries within hours of picking them is pretty tremendous. Jam with high-fructose corn syrup is not. 

We don't love ourselves and we sure don't love our neighbors or we would grow, buy, prepare and eat better food.

Your turn

Do your food buying habits reflect real love of self? How about love of the other people involved in bringing food to your table?


  1. Yes! well said. I read talk about, think about, and eat food all the time. But this brief missive pretty much sums it up. Great job.

  2. In a funny coincidence local food-blogging pastor Craig Goodwin also posted with a "love your neighbor" bit the same day: http://www.yearofplenty.org/2011/01/why-people-are-starving-in-a-world-with-enough-food.html

    It must be in the air, since I had a first draft with the concept started last August and finally pulled it out and finished it a couple of days before I published it.


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