Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is


Posted by in February's Magazine

Last Issue I looked at the implications of the modern day food industry on your health, and how knowing a little about food production can help a lot in making healthier food choices (if you missed it read it here), the discussion continues…

Leith is in the minority of British neighbourhoods. We have a huge variety of independently owned local shops, and in order for them to stay in business, we need to remember to frequent them. My in-laws who live on the outskirts of Leeds no longer have a local shop; the closest place to buy milk is a distant supermarket, a car drive away. So they don’t even have a choice of where to shop locally; we Leithers do!

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Consider how many Tesco supermarkets there are nowadays. In Leith alone, we have seen 3 Tescos open (Leith Walk, Duke St and Great Junction St, with another due on Picardy Place soon). Supermarkets have the financial clout to change urban landscapes, whilst small local businesses are being put out of business by the sheer scale of these retail giants. If you’ve talked to any of the convenience store owners on Leith Walk, you’ll know that they’re feeling the squeeze of the Duke Street Tesco. Not only do supermarkets have massive power in their supply chain (suppliers being asked to slash prices so supermarkets can run BOGOF – buy one get one free – deals and also not being paid timeously), but the food they regularly have ‘on offer’ is junk food. Processed foods that have a high profit margin and long shelf life tend to be the only things that are better value at a supermarket. For affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, you’re better off frequenting a greengrocer. Convenience is the main reason most people go to supermarkets, but at what price?

Here’s a reading list if you wish to learn more…

Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets – Joanna Blythman
One of the first books on the subject that I read, Blythman looks at the mechanics of how supermarkets operate. Although Shopped was published seven years ago, it’s even more important now as supermarkets continue to pop up all over the place. Champion of happy chickens, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall summed up this book neatly when he commented:

“Joanna Blythman has bravely and compellingly exposed the corrosive effect of supermarkets on our farming and our food culture. And she has rightly identified you, the consumer, as the only person who can do anything about it. Don’t read it and weep. Read it and change the way you shop.”

Not On The Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on your Plate – Felicity Lawrence
Published the same year as Blythman’s Shopped, Lawrence – a London based writer for the Guardian – looks at similar issues, but breaks them down into specific foods. The chapter on chicken is a must-read, but not if you ever want to eat cheap chicken again!

Tescopoly – Andrew Simms
How did Tesco take over the world? Find out here. Online you can check out tescopoly.org where you will find an alliance of organisations concerned with the negative impacts of supermarket power.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
A tome of a book, it’s USA-centric but increasingly relevant here in the UK. Following food from production to the shelf, this is a comprehensive read exploring how we as omnivores can eat pretty much anything, but increasingly go for the ‘easy’ option. The easy option is usually not the healthiest, or the best economically for society in general. This book caused a bit of a ruckus in the US when it was published, but struck a chord for many disenfranchised consumers.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual – Michael Pollan
If you can’t be bothered reading all 500 pages of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then just have a flick through this wee book (with pictures) which summarises Pollan’s thoughts on how to eat healthily, ethically, and in an environmentally friendly way. (The editor recommends the beautifully written Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: “One of the great/important books about food-politics.”)

For those of you who are loath to pick up a book, you can watch the DVDs Super Size Me and Food Inc. on the goggle box. You’ve probably heard of Super Size Me, where director Morgan Spurlock lived on MacDonald’s meals for a month, with grim health consequences. Food Inc. is an easy to watch overview of the American corporate food industry, well worth putting on your DVD rental list. Knowledge is power as they say. And it’s good to be small but mighty
Hungry for more? Come along to my Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Health Foods But Were Too Afraid to Ask evening at Real Foods, Broughton Street on the evening of Tuesday 29th March. There will be a fun interactive guided tour, tasters, recipes and a goody bag.

Illustration: Ian Kinghorn

Visit getfitandenjoyit.com for more info and to get your £5 ticket

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