Author Topic: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.  (Read 4495 times)

Kaplin261

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Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« on: March 01, 2016, 08:05:11 AM »
Most of the food my family and myself eat is cooked from our own home kitchen. We drive to the local grocery store once a week, we go thru the store filling our cart with ingredients to make meals. Most of the food we buy is not local, our grocer only offers a limited amount of local produce and the price is about double for local produce. The meat we buy probably comes from a industrial farm with  animal husbandry I doubt I would want to know about.

Lots of energy was used to manufacture and deliver those ingredients that I'm about to turn into meals for my family. Our family has a kitchen that is about 200 sqft that serves 3 people, we live in the suburbs in a subdivision of  about 120 homes.A centralized food cart with less sqft than my own kitchen could service the whole neighborhood. Instead those 120 families have used their money and bought homes with kitchens, taking up 24,000 sqft in my neighborhood.

The community I live in offers no alternatives to this scenario, restaurants are not conveniently placed nor do they offer healthy food at prices that I can get by cooking at home. It makes no sense at all why this would be the case.

Homes in my area sell for $125 per sqft, making my 200 sqft kitchen cost $25,000 and that does not include optional items like cabinets,countertops,appliances, plumbing and electrical outlets.

Am I crazy to think like this, or is there a better way? Could outsourcing the chore of cooking be cheaper and better for the environment than cooking at home?



MandalayVA

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2016, 08:27:31 AM »
Hello, fellow RVAer!  (waves)

Where do you live in the area and where do you do your shopping?  Richmond does have farmers markets and alternative grocery sources.  If I have an idea where you are I can advise you. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2016, 08:28:01 AM »
Doubtful. Those restaurants have an equally complex distribution system. It's not energy-efficient to grow a diverse array of food in every place. You have to save a lot on transportation to make it worth it to grow food on marginal lands.

One of the worst things about zoning and NIMBYism is that it prevents SROs with shared kitchens as housing for the very poor.

bobechs

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2016, 08:32:18 AM »
This doesn't sound at all like the asymptotic approach to the best of all possible worlds Warren Buffet describes in his latest public letter.

Cromacster

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2016, 08:35:09 AM »
The way I see it there are four solutions to your proposed problem.  1)Socialist commune 2)Grow/Raise your own 3)Source locally yourself 4)Keep doing what your doing.

Each of the above has their own issues.

I believe for the average american a combination of sourcing locally, shopping at a store, and cooking yourself will be be the best solution.

Edit:  I'll also add that there is always Soylent.  Avoid shopping at stores and your just shipping dry powder.  If it were a perfect food replacement it would probably be the most efficient and lowest impact option.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 08:39:26 AM by Cromacster »

ooeei

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2016, 08:45:48 AM »
Most of the food my family and myself eat is cooked from our own home kitchen. We drive to the local grocery store once a week, we go thru the store filling our cart with ingredients to make meals. Most of the food we buy is not local, our grocer only offers a limited amount of local produce and the price is about double for local produce. The meat we buy probably comes from a industrial farm with  animal husbandry I doubt I would want to know about.

Lots of energy was used to manufacture and deliver those ingredients that I'm about to turn into meals for my family. Our family has a kitchen that is about 200 sqft that serves 3 people, we live in the suburbs in a subdivision of  about 120 homes.A centralized food cart with less sqft than my own kitchen could service the whole neighborhood. Instead those 120 families have used their money and bought homes with kitchens, taking up 24,000 sqft in my neighborhood.

The community I live in offers no alternatives to this scenario, restaurants are not conveniently placed nor do they offer healthy food at prices that I can get by cooking at home. It makes no sense at all why this would be the case.

Homes in my area sell for $125 per sqft, making my 200 sqft kitchen cost $25,000 and that does not include optional items like cabinets,countertops,appliances, plumbing and electrical outlets.

Am I crazy to think like this, or is there a better way? Could outsourcing the chore of cooking be cheaper and better for the environment than cooking at home?

Sure, you could outsource cooking if you want.  You already outsource food production.  The main problem with outsourcing cooking, is that cooked food generally has a shorter shelf life than uncooked food.  This means it's difficult to do on a large scale in a central location and ship around the country, without dealing with freezing/complex packaging/spoilage. 

Restaurants are a good example of a localized version of the outsourcing, but they require many employees to serve a large number of people.  Generally the higher the quantity or lower the cost, the harder maintaining quality is.  Fast food places like McDonald's and Subway have gotten around some of these constraints, so by all means go there if it's worth it to you not to cook.  Many people have higher standards for food preparation than what can be done in a large plant days/weeks beforehand then heated up by minimum wage workers.  If that's the case, doing the labor yourself is the cheapest option.  The other factor to this is most people aren't insanely busy 24/7, and actually have some spare time.  If that's the case, using that time for cooking is clearly the financially prudent decision.  If you're a workaholic who gets paid overtime for every hour you spend working, you might find it worth it to pay someone else to make your food at a restaurant.

The other halfway compromise is things that are pre-cooked and frozen, then sent to the grocery store.  I ate some of this stuff in college (grilled chicken, chicken fried steak, etc), and much prefer cooking my own food now. 

I find it interesting that you bring up the cost of your kitchen as something inefficient and wasteful in your house.  By your logic, the entire idea of a single family home is inefficient.  It would be much more prudent to live in a commune or apartment complex with only a very small bedroom and shared living areas.  Places like this do exist, but there are tradeoffs from the single family home lifestyle.  Whether those tradeoffs are worth it to you is a question only you can answer.  Personally I enjoy cooking, and like the privacy and freedom a private residence gives me.  We live in an apartment right now, but I much prefer my own kitchen to sharing with other people.  I'd cringe to see the menu decided on by the popular vote in America for a communal living space.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 08:48:06 AM by ooeei »

little_brown_dog

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2016, 08:56:19 AM »
What about CSAs in the summer and fall? Many times these things aren't obvious, you have to actively seek them out. A good CSA can be an awesome way of getting local fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

Meat and dairy are tough. For us, being vegetarian gets around the problem of industrial meat production. We produce our own eggs with a small backyard flock of happy well looked after birds, and limit our dairy consumption to cheese, yogurt, and occasionally ice cream (we use soy and almond milk for cereal and cooking).  If you like gamey meats, you might want to look into seeing if you can purchase venison and rabbit off a local hunter each fall. Alternatively, you can look into buying a half a cow or pig from a grassfed meat producer in your area. I imagine Virginia has quite a few organic/small meat farms. The trouble is, you will pay for the quality. Personally I think good quality meat would be totally worth the price (factory farms are probably the grossest and cruelest things to come out of human civilization) but many people do not.

Generally outsourcing cooking is not an ecologically sound practice. Most of us have to drive to the restaurant (or have food delivered), there is a lot of packaging involved, there are a lot of costs associated with eating at a separate establishment with its own utilities, staff, etc, and most restaurants buy their products from industrial producers due to lower prices. Generally, the more middlemen in a process,  the less ecologically sustainable it is. The most sustainable way to eat is local, organic whole foods cooked simply at home. But you will pay more for the ingredients themselves.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 09:03:50 AM by little_brown_dog »

Kaplin261

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2016, 08:59:39 AM »
Hello, fellow RVAer!  (waves)

Where do you live in the area and where do you do your shopping?  Richmond does have farmers markets and alternative grocery sources.  If I have an idea where you are I can advise you.

Hello MandalayVA, glad to meet a fellow Mustashian living in RVA! I live in Mechanicsville, 1 mile from the target on bellcreek. We do most of our shopping from Martins and BJ's. What part of Richmond do you live in?

sheepstache

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2016, 09:40:31 AM »
I'm not saying that the food industrial complex necessarily creates the best solution for us or the earth, but it's important to recognize efficiencies where it has the advantage rather than just assuming farmer's markets and CSAs are better. A local farmer driving fifty miles to the farmers' market so a few families can drive 15 miles out of their way to shop there may actually be a bigger waste of energy than a fleet of trucks driving a 200 mile radius to chain grocery stores that a bunch of families only need to drive 5 miles to.

Of course, if grocery stores could let you know what products have the smallest carbon footprint it would be the ideal solution. Warn you from buying local tomatoes...that required a hothouse to be produced out of season, warn you from buying things that are grown locally but for some reason the grocery store's were flown in from Panama because that was cheaper for some reason, etc.

I do like the OP's willingness to think about major changes.

MandalayVA

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2016, 10:14:14 AM »
Hello, fellow RVAer!  (waves)

Where do you live in the area and where do you do your shopping?  Richmond does have farmers markets and alternative grocery sources.  If I have an idea where you are I can advise you.

Hello MandalayVA, glad to meet a fellow Mustashian living in RVA! I live in Mechanicsville, 1 mile from the target on bellcreek. We do most of our shopping from Martins and BJ's. What part of Richmond do you live in?

I live in Church Hill.  I've met/been in contact with a few RVA mustachians and I seem to be the only one who lives in the actual city.  :D

Since you're willing to travel to Whole Foods I can point you to a couple of different places.  Relay Foods has a pickup spot at the Owens and Minor office in Mechanicsville, roughly nine miles from you.  You place your order online and pick it up from the truck.  Its prices are similar to Whole Foods but almost everything is local.  PM me and I can refer you--you get a discount on your first order and I'll get one too!

Ellwood Thompson's in the Fan prides itself on local stuff.  You lean vegan so it may be worth your while.  It's a little less than Whole Foods on some stuff and you can catch good sales.

The South of the James Market is a really good farmers market in Forest Hill Park that runs year round, with lots of local vendors.  It's roughly thirteen miles from you.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2016, 10:19:23 AM »
Take a look at this map of how much corn you get per planted acre in the USA:


Then compare to peanuts:


As you can see, yield per acre varies tremendously, and as you can imagine, it varies quite a bit year-to-year in each place as well. It simply isn't reasonable to grow all calories close by. You'll have to devote a much higher proportion of land to agriculture, you'll have to use a lot more fertilizer and water, and annual variation will still mean it's necessary to move food around the world every year.

Personally I plant a garden so I get lots of things that do great in my area in a particular year, for much less than a CSA. Then I let the free market determine the best source of the rest of my food by shopping for good deals at the grocery store.

Philociraptor

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2016, 10:26:35 AM »
Goddammit, this argument again? You aren't convincing anybody that "the cost of the kitchen" needs to be added into the cost of food cooked at home, except for those who already prefer to outsource their cooking as well. I'm of the opinion that the cost of the kitchen is a fixed cost of owning a single family home, therefore not utilizing it would be foolish. We all already know that you disagree with this. Nice try coming at it from a different angle though. Pretty sure the "centralized food cart with less sqft than my own kitchen" would still have to get its food from a distribution system similar to the grocery store. So to answer the OP, yes, you are crazy to think like this. No, outsourcing cooking is not likely cheaper and better for the environment, as prepared food is still subject to supply chain costs.

Mr. Green

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 10:59:09 AM »
Considering a kitchen is required for a building to be considered a home in all jurisdictions, because it's a requirement in the international building code, which the entire US bases it's building codes off of, you will find no scenario where a house exists without one.

abhe8

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2016, 11:05:17 AM »
In my experience, mass cooking such as dorms or nursing homes give far inferior results then what I can cook at home, in terms of cost, nutrition and taste.

As far as restaurants being expensive...its because they can. People will pay more for better food or the atmosphere and service.

I'm also not sure one food cart could actually cook three meals per day for 120 households. And even if it could, people would lose all control or choice of what and when to eat.

If you want to feed everyone with the least carbon footprint, I think soylent or similar is the best option, but I personally would be miserable.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 11:10:35 AM by abhe8 »

abhe8

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2016, 11:11:45 AM »
Considering a kitchen is required for a building to be considered a home in all jurisdictions, because it's a requirement in the international building code, which the entire US bases it's building codes off of, you will find no scenario where a house exists without one.
True, but dorms, retirement homes, nursing homes all offer living space without kitchens and a centralized kitchen and dining room.

ooeei

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2016, 12:50:26 PM »
Goddammit, this argument again? You aren't convincing anybody that "the cost of the kitchen" needs to be added into the cost of food cooked at home, except for those who already prefer to outsource their cooking as well. I'm of the opinion that the cost of the kitchen is a fixed cost of owning a single family home, therefore not utilizing it would be foolish. We all already know that you disagree with this. Nice try coming at it from a different angle though. Pretty sure the "centralized food cart with less sqft than my own kitchen" would still have to get its food from a distribution system similar to the grocery store. So to answer the OP, yes, you are crazy to think like this. No, outsourcing cooking is not likely cheaper and better for the environment, as prepared food is still subject to supply chain costs.

I tried to be a bit nicer in my response, but this is basically what I wanted to say.  I must have missed the "central food cart" idea in the OP. 

I think if you could make a food cart that reliably makes 300 meals 3 times a day at a quality people can make at home, and a lower cost, you've got the makings of a very successful business!  Don't forget to vary the meals enough that all 300 people want to eat there every meal of every day.  Best of luck.

bobechs

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2016, 01:21:03 PM »
Goddammit, this argument again? You aren't convincing anybody that "the cost of the kitchen" needs to be added into the cost of food cooked at home, except for those who already prefer to outsource their cooking as well. I'm of the opinion that the cost of the kitchen is a fixed cost of owning a single family home, therefore not utilizing it would be foolish. We all already know that you disagree with this. Nice try coming at it from a different angle though. Pretty sure the "centralized food cart with less sqft than my own kitchen" would still have to get its food from a distribution system similar to the grocery store. So to answer the OP, yes, you are crazy to think like this. No, outsourcing cooking is not likely cheaper and better for the environment, as prepared food is still subject to supply chain costs.

I tried to be a bit nicer in my response, but this is basically what I wanted to say.  I must have missed the "central food cart" idea in the OP. 

I think if you could make a food cart that reliably makes 300 meals 3 times a day at a quality people can make at home, and a lower cost, you've got the makings of a very successful business!  Don't forget to vary the meals enough that all 300 people want to eat there every meal of every day.  Best of luck.

It's called a "Company Field Mess"; armies have had them for centuries now.  Certainly they vary in the precise comparability to home cooking but they do hit the numbers you have specified.

Every meal of every day?  Well there's always the PX Shoppette alternative, which you can see an analog of in operation at just about every gas station in America.  Guess those folks aren't eating every meal at home either.

ooeei

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2016, 02:31:09 PM »

It's called a "Company Field Mess"; armies have had them for centuries now.  Certainly they vary in the precise comparability to home cooking but they do hit the numbers you have specified.

Every meal of every day?  Well there's always the PX Shoppette alternative, which you can see an analog of in operation at just about every gas station in America.  Guess those folks aren't eating every meal at home either.

Oh I don't doubt it can be done and people can survive on it.  What I doubt is that it can compare to home cooking in both the quality and cost categories.  If it could, they'd be all over the place as restaurants and making a lot of money.  Then again, maybe we're the first people to talk about privatizing it, and it's a business waiting to take off. 

bobechs

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2016, 02:35:35 PM »
When otherwise ostensibly sane people are willing to hand over valid  American money to get a Boot Camp exercise experience and others are Kondo-izing their closets, can neighborhood chow lines be far behind?

Trudie

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2016, 02:38:35 PM »
Sure, it's inefficient, but it depends on what you're buying too.

As a person who loves to cook, enjoys the meditative moments spent in the kitchen, the creative mastery of new dishes, socializing with others in the heart of my home, exploring other cultures and traditions through food, and the sensory pleasures of a good meal I can't view my kitchen in the same way.

Abe

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Re: Food distribution system as bad as clown cars.
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2016, 05:19:38 PM »
I would not want to outsource my food preparation for a food cart that would be designed to produce the average american diet. Based on population health data in the U.S., it would significantly increase my weight and risk of chronic illness like diabetes.