Food issues affect economics, the environment, and social systems. What you eat affects more than just your tastebuds or your personal health - your food choices reflect and affect your society and eco-system in ways you don't directly perceive.
Read about food politics, agriculture and Lebanon The Roots of Inequality at Ms. Levantine.
Here in California we say "think global, buy local" - it's a whole political/social movement intended to address just the questions described in this essay. Concerns about the environment, energy policy, pesticides in food, and good nutrition are all addressed when you buy locally grown produce.
Buying local addresses the problem of using oil to grow and distribute food - local produce needs far less oil to bring to market.
Organic farming is another part of this equation. It is labor-intensive, and it uses less petrochemicals (or none at all) to fertilize and grow crops.
When I choose to spend a little more to buy local, family-farmed organic produce, I am "voting" with my disposable income in favor of food production that is sustainable, that pollutes less, that emits no harmful toxins into the environment, and that supports small family farms.
Acting this way seems Quixotic to some, but in America we've been pushing this concept for 25 years and more, and now the biggest food producers are forced to respond. Organic crop production has become big business, and the major food distributors are selling organic. Economies of scale work in the organic world, too. However, this causes new problems.
I still favor buying local - I buy local, non-organic produce over imported, organic produce.
Local markets and vendors in Lebanon are part of the indigenous distribution system. People who care about Lebanon's agricultural future might want to buy LOCAL produce, from local vendors if possible. Buying imported food, or food produced and distributed by big agribusiness, may contribute to economic inequity and to pollution (boats and trucks emit bad stuff).
The same day I read the linked post about Lebanon and agriculture, I discovered a policy paper on food distribution that was left in my local produce market.
On pages 6 and 7, you will see photos of this very market! The think tank is in my city and they used images from this family-owned produce store to illustrate the benefits of choosing small vendors over huge conglomerate stores. One assumes that someone from the think tank placed the papers at the cash register. Only in the Bay Area do you pick up food policy papers while buying your salad greens.
The paper discusses food issues in terms of the enormous and corporatized American market - but the issues are related Lebanon's food production and distribution problems.
The solution is very similar: promote local agriculture. Promote sustainable agriculture. Buy in your local markets, and avoid Big Agriculture food products. Don't buy chips, processed cereals and sweets - bad for you anyway, and they contribute to these economic inequities.
For instance, Lebanese schoolchildren are better off buying bizr, kaak and other local, traditional snacks, than buying potato chips in bags or other American-style crap. Chips are unhealthy, they are too expensive, and they contribute to the corporatization of the economy; buying processed fast snacks harms local Lebanese businesses and workers.
Abu-Ali, the writer of the original food distribution post, tips us to a new Lebanese farmer's market initiatives: Souk el Tayeb. I love it. Yes the markets are upscale and seem to be patronized by Westernized, affluent elite. So what? Let the elite buy local; this will support local farmers and bring more goods to market. We want everyone to buy local.
The Souk el Tayeb link leads to Make Food Not War, a new initiative by the Slow Food movement. Here are my two favorite issues put together in one. Thank God the slow foodies decided to do something beyond eating elaborately prepared traditional food. Read their mission here.
If you're in Lebanon and picking up snacks, buy the bizr instead of the bagged potato chips. For Lebanon!