From The Editors

Categories:  From the Editors    Opinion    Food & Drink    Community    News & Politics
Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 at 10:23 AM

A headline can say a lot with a little. Two words shape the feature you’ll find on this issue’s cover: Food Hypocrisy. What lies beyond is an exploration of our connection — or perhaps better put: our disconnection — with the food we consume.

Sure, many of us put some level of thought behind the choices we make when we purchase the various items we use to construct our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but is it enough? Is it enough to simply purchase “organic” and be done with the matter?

Katie Chriest, with her first contribution to the Reader, takes an in-depth look at our relationship with our food, which leads to a more important question: How do we treat the people who harvest our food?

Picking a tomato from of a grocery store display is easy. The questions posed here aren’t, like: Just how far — and why — did that tomato have to travel in the middle of winter to make it into our shopping cart, and was the person who plucked the fruit from the vine treated fairly for his or her labor? But these considerations are worth of our time, because we lose sight of the small details that we perhaps write off as too simple for our attention. While we may think we’re doing good — buying organic instead of non-organic — we must — if we wish to be a more thoughtful, progressive society that treats all individuals fairly and with dignity — think beyond that, lest we continue to act as if our standards for food consumption are higher or more noble than is truly the case.

Admittedly, though, this doesn’t come with easy answers — especially when downtown Erie is a food desert, with the nearly 28,000 downtown residents lacking access to a grocery store within one mile. But reading Katie’s feature is a good first step. Then questioning where the food we choose to purchase comes from rather than blindly force-feeding it to ourselves is the next.

Good headlines — aside from saying a lot with a little — generate conversation because they entice and provoke us to read onward. That is, if one happens to read the headline: “If you don’t live in one of these cities, maybe you need to move,” one would most likely read on, considering that most of us want the best opportunities for ourselves.

If you read that headline, published by Yahoo! Finance on Jan. 8, you’d find that two sentences followed: “San Francisco, Austin, Provo and Raleigh: these are just some of the best performing cities in the United States according the Milken Institute’s annual list of dynamic metro areas. Each year, the economic think tank measures jobs, wages, salaries, and technological output to map out the cities it believes ‘hold the key to economic success.’”

What came after that was either encouraging or troubling, depending on where you live. In a bulleted list, Yahoo! revealed the top-five cities, the aforementioned four ranking at the top of “best performing cities.” Immediately following were “the cities that declined the most.” And if you’ve read the local headlines already, you know that Erie ranked No. 2 — on the second list.

While the findings of the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, whose mission is “to improve lives around the world by advancing innovative economic and policy solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital, and enhance health,” should be both scrutinized and analyzed, they send a clear message that people considering to move to — or remain in — Erie, Pa., might want to think otherwise. That is, some people reading Yahoo! Finance who digested the words “If you don’t live in one of these cities, maybe you need to move,” now look at Erie — in a snapshot — one distinct way: A declining city to be avoided in favor of ones holding the keys to economic success.

We can protest all we want — the study’s flawed! but Erie didn’t suffer nearly as bad as other cities during the recession! we’re essentially the same as we were ten years ago and that’s not that horrible, right?! — but the word is out there. Successful cities on the rise will point to studies like these as affirmation of their prosperity and progress and use them to market to those looking for places not just open to but embracing of innovation and entrepreneurship. Each time they do, people will be reminded that on the opposite end is Erie, Pa., with its reputation of decline, a city with the door to opportunity locked and no sight of the keys to economic success to be found.

Now, we can either react with denial or apathy, rejecting or ignoring these findings, or we can push forward by demanding better answers from those responsible for spurring economic growth in our region, because it’s time the headlines change, and it’s time we stop celebrating the management of mediocrity.

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 21
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