As mid-term elections take place across the country, with a variety of issues that directly impact the food supply on the ballot (including GMO labeling, environmental issues ranging from drought preparedness to conservationism, hydrofracking and others), the power and responsibility of the citizen is in the air. Beyond the ballot box, however, the impact of the citizen-as-consumer continues to hold great power.
Voting with your fork has, as a concept, been in play since the early 1990’s, and describes the power that each of us has to impact the food supply with our purchase decisions. Popularized by Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle (among others), the phrase serves as a reminder that seemingly small decisions can make a significant statement about what matters to us. Local, organic, sustainable, fair trade; carbon footprints, wages and working conditions, soil health, water purity- all of these issues are impacted by the choices we make each time we buy food. These choices add up to statements about our collective values- and the food chain responds.
For those in doubt, look at the growth of the organic movement and industry over the past decade, with sales growing from $13 billion in 2005 to nearly $40 billion in 2014. Consumer demand drives market growth- Wild Oats, for example, would not exist without your demand, and could not exist without your participation. While change may occur more slowly than one might hope, we cannot deny that it does occur- and that our choices add up, bite by bite.