Recently, there has been a push toward eating seasonally and locally. I am primarily a proponent of this philosophy. However, there are some interesting food choices we have the opportunity to make, that achieve a different type of social good.
One interesting technique to fight the drug wars, is to provide farmers in impoverished countries alternative crops to produce. If they are offered access to an income that reduces their dependency on production of cocaine and marijuana, this technique suggests, there may be less need for them to contribute to the supply of these drugs. Having an extra alternative also provides an option for farmers to provide a living for their families that is not limited to growing drugs or moving somewhere with a better economy and working in another industry.
Shifting to fair trade and direct trade products is only one way we can have global impact at the grocery store. In some cases, farmers who make the switch are offered military protection by their governments, helping to keep them safe while they work. In Colombia, the United States Government subsidizes these programs, helping farmers to grow crops like plantain, cacao, and papaya. Coffee is another alternative farmers in Bolivia have been helped to grow. Stevia, the increasingly popular sugar alternative, provides a similar opportunity to farmers in its native Paraguay; Sweetleaf Stevia reports that its partnerships in that country have helped to undermine its cocaine industry. And in Peru, paiche, a giant fish high in omega-3 content showing up on more American menus, once endangered due to overfishing, is now a product of a sustainable farming project helping local fishermen sustain a livelihood they were once undermining.
It is important when making choices at the grocery store, to consider that our purchases are about far more than calories and superfoods. We have the ability to create a worldwide food economy that is healthy for everyone who produces, packages, transports, and sells that food when we choose to eat it.