Oppression, Privilege and the Politics of Food: Why I Decided to Go Locavore

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my privilege. Arguably, this should be something always near the foreground of my thoughts. But recently, these thoughts have specifically been in relation to the locavore diet. When trying to analyze the challenges and opportunities presented by the locavore way of eating, I feel there are some fundamental aspects of my privilege that need to be addressed. After all, food is political, and we are political beings.

I am a straight, white, able-bodied woman from a middle class upbringing. I exist in a position of privilege. I consistently have opportunities presented to me unquestioningly. I’ve had easy access to education. I am able to choose to eat locally, to have enough money to change my eating habits, and the time to consider them thoroughly. Even the concept of a ‘diet’ rings loudly of privilege, but also of an oppressive food culture (which is why we tried to find a term other than diet, which turned out to be quite difficult…)

Combined with the fact that I don’t have children to feed makes for me a much easier starting position for this experiment than many others. Yet, this project isn’t about me. It’s about us. It’s about Bristolians — it’s about everyone.  It’s not about ‘bettering myself’ or ‘being healthier’ — this is about recognizing what is or could be available in and around the city of Bristol, England, and longer term: a deeper look at why it is the way it is. 

Along this journey I’ve had frequent conversations with people about replacing certain foods that have been removed from my diet due to the distance travelled, with others that I perhaps haven’t eaten before. Usually the suggestions are either foraging or growing my own. Now, this is where my privilege screams out at me like a huge elephant in the corner munching on homegrown salad. 

My response is often this; if I was a working single mum of 3, I probably wouldn’t have time to grow my own food. If I also lived in a flat, I probably wouldn’t have the space to grow my own food either. If I had a different upbringing then I might not know how to cook from scratch (Although, to be fair, I only learnt to cook when I left home at 19, out of necessity. My dad still jokes about how I asked, age 15, where the tin opener was. It had been in the same place since we moved into the house when I was 2 years old). If I came from a different cultural background I might not have access to the vegetables or other foods and spices I am used to cooking — and many of these may not be able to be grown in this country. There are loads of different factors to consider.

This experiment is about the wider context of where our food comes from and our access to it. By looking more closely at where our food is grown, who it is grown by and how easy it is to access we can get a better idea of the challenges we are facing on a wider scale — and also the ways of overcoming these challenges. This is not to say that foraging or growing my own aren't part of the solution, but it is not as black and white as simply deciding to grow herbs at home or to live without lemons.

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