What food says about us in an age of global elites


In his most recent column, Suri examined the divide between local citizens and global elites, characterizing politics in a global age as “intensely local.”

Food, to take just one example of the difference between haves and have-nots, is inherently political. There are several steps in between the seed and the meal, including production, distribution and consumption. A lot of people outside Austin dictate how Austinites eat. Food is governed by markets, trade, laws, lobbyists, climate change, Congress, the executive and the courts.

At the same time, the broader politics of food are intensely local. The movement for organic, sustainable foods has become one of the upper middle class. Austin is home to a number of healthy, organic food vendors. But eating “real food” is expensive. Fresh vegetables are healthier than canned ones but come at a higher price. Shopping at Wheatsville is more expensive than shopping at Walmart. Because of these prices, sustainable foods are not accessible to everyone. Whole Foods has no Dollar Menu. Cheap junk food is readily available. This means that lower-income households are subjected to lower-quality foods.

What makes this paradox dangerous is that food is an integral part of the local experience. Everyone eats food. The prices of food affect everyone. But not everyone can eat quality food and live “sustainably.” Quality food shouldn’t be a luxury for some and a lifestyle for others. This is a fundamental inequality that is present at each dinner table, grocery store and in each dining hall. Suri says that global politics reflect “local expression.” What do the divisions in our access to quality food say about us?

Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.