Food – it’s pretty important right? Without it we literally could not survive. It’s pretty morbid when we put it like that but it’s true. However, food is so much more than fuel for our bodies. It unites us in so many ways. It’s the social thread of our lives. We enjoy meals with our families, BBQs and picnics with friends, lunches shared with colleagues or our children. Culturally it plays such a central role in celebrations, and a huge part in many religions.
Food brings joy. We eat it. We share it. We discuss it. We savour it. However, not everyone feels this way about food. There may be some who obsess over it. Calculate it. Restrict it. Everywhere we look we’re told not to eat this, or that. It can be so confusing!
Food connects us to the earth. For Indigenous people in particular, traditional foods provide a strong link to country. Yet for most of us who live in cities far removed from the rural landscape where our food is grown and produced, we may not give this a second thought as we throw food into the trolley.
In fact, for many of us, food is something we may not give a lot of thought to. Sure, some of us may choose foods for their nutritional qualities. Some of us may think we’re choosing foods for their health benefits but may simply be influenced through what is being marketed as healthy.
Some may choose foods because they’re better for the environment. Many people opt to be vegetarian or vegan for environmental or even ethical reasons. In fact, environmental factors played a big part in why I chose to be vegetarian ten years ago. We may base our food selections on things like Fairtrade? Or Australian made? Or GMO free?
For many the choice simply comes down to price and/ or what’s available to us. I’m sure there are numerous more reasons for why food goes into your trolley – convenience, taste, organic, meeting the needs of family members, what you can access at the time, allergies, brand loyalty, locally grown, free range etc.
What about social reasons? Does it bother us that the farmers who produce our food get a fair price? I remember feeling dismayed watching the dairy crisis unfold last year in Australia. For many, the reductions to the farm gate milk price by processors Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, was a huge blow. I watched on as struggling dairy farmers were forced to sell off their prized dairy cattle just to break even. Many became beholden to the milk processors because they back dated when the amended farm gate price was to be applied. How does this happen? Does this seem fair to you? It certainly didn’t to me. I remember thinking that surely there was something I could do to help farmers ensure they were paid fairly for all their hard work. I read a lot about the the events that preceded the crisis and Choice provided an excellent summary at the time. For me it was about making a conscious decision to purchase a milk brand that supported its farmers and that they were paid a fair price for their commodity.
Conscious, that’s an interesting word. How many of us consciously think about what we’re buying, or even eating for that matter? Should we? Who has time to think about what they put in their trolley? I’d like to think I’m a conscious consumer but after the milk crisis I started to scrutinise my own purchasing habits.
According to various reports, one of the most influential factors for consumers at the supermarket is price. Taste and convenience also feature quite highly. I totally get that. I’m influenced by all three factors one way or another when I buy my groceries They’re not the only things that I act on, and I’m thankful for that, but I can’t deny they don’t feature. Health is definitely another one, and the environment another, but I honestly think most of my shopping is done on autopilot listening to the cheesy music played through the supermarkets speakers.
Am I the only one who thinks this deeply about the shopping decision I make? I’m intrigued, what influences you at the supermarket? Why does food end up in your trolley?