True Cost Pricing the Food on the Table | Civil Eats

True Cost Pricing the Food on the Table

What if each of us were engaged in our communities, our “work”, and our “play” in a new way—one in which we actually understand the impacts of our choices? What if we were to price a food system that is clean, just, and fair by redefining the costs of products and services? Since we have to start by eating to fuel our brains and bodies, let’s expand our business practices and personal financial decisions to include the impacts on people and places—in our food.

So what is true cost pricing a meal? Why should we include all the positive and negative factors that are upstream–what goes on before food gets on the table, and downstream—nutrition we get from food, and the waste stream–in a meal that impact people and places? We must redefine our pricing structure to include the impacts on people and places so we can recapture the ownership of the sources of our sustenance; support our local organic farmers and their farm practices and knowledge; grow vital communities; and heal our land and biosphere – one choice at a time.

Consumers and small businesses move 70% of all the transactions in the US marketplace every day. By actively engaging in marketplace policy-making, true cost pricing of products and services can help us understand the social and environmental impacts of our individual and collective purchases. If we can true cost price an organic meal, we can develop the capacity, practices, and language we need to communicate this “good food language” among ourselves, and link consumer and small business purchasing power to leverage a sustainable food system and marketplace.
Join us on Thursday, August 28th for Pricing the Food on the Table Forum where you can:

  • Investigate pricing structures
  • Consider true cost pricing approaches that best represent the data we have from a 100 Mile Diet meal (all ingredients of which were purchased from local organic farmers at local farmers’ markets within 100 Miles)
  • Review how to true cost price this meal in a form that any diner can understand
  • Actually price the 100 Mile Diet meal as a “Special Price of the Day”—a true cost priced meal.
  • At this Forum, we will benchmark our findings against industrially processed food meals; organic meals; and locally grown, organic meals within 100 miles of meal preparation. To review the participant background materials for Pricing the Food on the Table, scroll through to Agenda and Background Materials.

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    Martin Luther King said, “We need to have tough minds and tender hearts if we are serious about changing the world.” While we celebrate the profound beauty and vitality of all living systems, we take on the evolutionary challenge of simultaneously developing the analytic and intuitive sides of our brain. THIS IS THE TIME TO EVOLVE!

    We thank those conscious eaters among us who are willing to recapture the ownership of their lives by joining Pricing the Food on the Table Forum.

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    Theo Ferguson is the Executive Director of Sustainable Ventures Read more >

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    1. Milt Schroeder
      While I think this is a valuable and viable way to go, I also reflect on those who can't afford it. particularly those on low, fixed incomes. Also, those on no incomes who day in and day out need more money and time to enjoy what you are proposing. Where do they fit in?
    2. I appreciate the question, Milt. We all have to keep talking and acting at every level, that's what ownership of our food systems require!

      Basically your question requires, but what are we doing while we're moving towards true cost pricing as embracing true cost pricing redefines our economy. Initial steps includes a) access, b) the full use and distribution of food through the culture and practices emphasizing fairness and the reduction of waste at every level of food systems--redistribution of food from restaurants or at the end of farmer's markets, provide micro-loans for community kitchens to capture all value from seasonal crops, possibly even building in an added social value a percentage social cost indicator; use of buildings for "city seconds" as policies by mayor and governors and benefits for small entrepreneurs to get the food to the underserved populations you are championing to ensure access to good food and dignity for folks on fixed incomes and those who have fallen on hard times. Certainly grow Victory Gardens in as many commons as possible, like the gorgeous one in San Francisco…which needs to become a Victory Garden in fact! like the one that was there in 1929 that fed the people who needed the food.

      Michael Nischan of Wholesome Wave Foundation proposed some extraordinary ideas. Strategies include farmers being enabled to sell at "white table cloth" communities, charge what they need to charge, sell out, and afford to sell at a wholesale reduced price to poor communities and everyone being totally fine with that as the environmental, social, governance, and financial bottom lines are all being engaged. He also noted successful programs of doubling food stamps if they are spent at these kinds of markets.

      People's Grocery has two GRUB baskets: a) $24, a great value when it costs $18 to produce, to those of us who want their CSA-GRUB box, and $12 to under served community members--an awesome price for a substantive bag of local organic produce and fruit.

      Paying just wages, universal health care, getting us out of Iraq and redirecting--what is it? 0h! $573 Billion, are the kinds of effective resource allocation that will address your issues as well. These are the kinds of issues that true cost pricing addresses.

      So while we really take on systemic solutions like true cost pricing, we can do a great deal towards mitigating the disparity of access to good food. A good recipe could include 1) a conscious culture of celebrating interdependence and full resource use--on which all million-year old ecosystems are based; 2) the addition of human qualities of dignity and fairness; and 3) leavened with micro loans for entrepreneurial ingenuity.

      Don’t forget, Milt, that all the inner city marginalized families with no access to good food are likely to have not only Type 2 Diabetes and heart diseases and obesity, but also trips to the emergency rooms from gang fights and time in Juvenile Justice and the full treatment at the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 50% of Hispanic youth are involved with the juvenile justice system or DCR. African American youth are running a close second. I am happy to share the statistics. These are all negative downstream costs—hidden taxpayer costs also paid by those with fixed incomes. Ask me for a copy of Growing Good Food Language and print out a copy of the Sierra Club’s True Cost of Food Discussion Guide.

      Again, Milt, I appreciate the question and, let's all get in there and create a food system, marketplace, and democracy based on good, clean, fair, and true cost priced.

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