Miss Em is lucky enough to be in a college program that involves an occasional invitation to a catered meal at a faculty home. These have themes and, being a hungry girl with an interest in food, she recently chose one on eating with locally sourced products. (UGH--I can't believe I just used the word "sourced"--so pretentious.)
The food, as expected, was great: catfish po-boys, marinated cabbage, and other items I can't remember.
While she was there, Miss Em got into a conversation with a proponent of local eating. She mentioned that she came from a frugal family that liked to cook and eat. The expert opined that cheap food was part of the problem: the Dollar Burger masks its true costs, which include health and environmental costs, in the way that the food is raised, produced, processed, transported, and so on.
Meanwhile, in a frugal and environmental move, I took a New York Times Magazine from the free bin at the library. The magazine, from the depths of the financial crisis, had an article about a New York City family that TRIED to eat local and organic foods from the Farmer's Market. In that quest, they purchased a chicken that cost $35.00! The article also mentioned that their toddler-son chugged through a half-gallon of farm milk ($14.00/gallon!) a day. I'm not even going to get into the question of whether anyone should be drinking that much milk (I say no). Anyway, the family had to give up these pure foods in the face of financial woes.
I think the University locavore was conflating CHEAP food and FRUGAL food. CHEAP food is not good in large quantities: hot pockets, pizza bites, and the like, in addition to fast food items.
FRUGAL food can include local food. I can buy local seafood, greens, and citrus. I do, all the time. Perhaps I SHOULD buy local dairy items, but I have a cheap attack on these.
At the same time, I would faint if my dear spouse purchased a $35.00 chicken. Or if my children consumed $7.00 worth of milk per diem, each.
If it's true though that local food really is better for you (aside from being better tasting) and if the prices mentioned in the New York Times article are on the level, then there may be a food and nutrition gap between richest and poorest much like the widening income gap that has been in the news so much of late.
AND NOW FOR the $64,000 question: would you spend $35.00 on a chicken?