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Perspective: Sam Mogannam on Good Food

By WorldLink Staff | December 13, 2011 | Leave a Comment

How can grocery stores help build healthier communities? Sam Mogannam, owner of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market, discusses the role small grocers can play in supporting the local economy, educating eaters, and sharing good, sustainable food.

Sam is the second-generation owner of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market, a neighborhood grocery store specializing in sustainable and locally produced products. He also is the co-author of Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food.

Learn more in Shopping Wisely and Michael Pollan’s Supermarket Secrets.

What is good food?

Sam Mogannam: Good food first and foremost has to taste good. Food often tastes better when it’s in season, so seasonality is among the criteria for good food. Also, the less distance food has to travel, the fresher it is, so local is important. Local food also helps support local economies and helps preserve farmland and food culture.

I also consider fresh food to be better than processed foods. Good food should make us feel good, not make us sick. Two-thirds of our adult population is obese, and that is currently costing us over $125 billion annually. Most of that expense could be prevented through a better diet. We need to take back control of our food system, and we need to educate people, so we can reverse this trend. We need to spend more time at home cooking, teaching our kids how to cook, and sitting at a table together and sharing a meal.

What questions should we be asking of people who make and sell food?

Sam Mogannam: Three simple questions can get you to the root of whether food is good or not:

  1. Where was it grown? It is amazing how little or generic the information available to us is. The USDA requires Country of Origin Labeling, so “USA” is all a sign needs to state (the WTO is currently trying to lobby the USDA to repeal this law, so no labeling would be required). The more precise the info, the more transparency there is about where the food came from.
  2. How was it grown? Ask your grocer about chemical or synthetic inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics. If their answer is “I don’t know,” don’t buy it.
  3. Who grew it? Does the retailer know what farm or ranch it came from? This is less critical if you can get good answers to the first two questions, but your retailer’s answer will tell you something about their desire to know.

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