(Remixed audio) Civically Engaged with Michael Jones of Local Matters
Jones who heads Local Matters said food is something that can bring people together to address tough issues.
As for the relationship of Local Matters with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Ohio Department of Agriculture--(which some people have criticized for promoting big industrial farming at the expense of small farmers)-- Jones said, "We, as an organization, recognize there is a difference between working with and partnering with somebody and supporting all of the policies of that particular organization.
"We say this all of the time within the confines of Local Matters, 'Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective ?'"
Jones said Local Matters seeks common ground with the ODA and the bureau in order to be effective at bringing about the type of change they (Local Matters) would like to see.
As for a definition for ‘local food’, he said “ the best working definition that I can give you from Local Matters’ perspective would be to eat food grown as closely (as possible) to the place where you live. For some people that’s their backyard. For some other people, it’s a farmers’ market.”
Jones suggests not using a definition based only on geography or mileage.
“We used to talk about local as being food from Ohio…But if you only talk about food in Ohio and you live in northeast Ohio, local food for you may be right across the border in Pennsylvania.”
Jones said he and his colleagues with Local Matters have found that people in communities in need--where there are 'food deserts'-- often are more focused on getting more healthful food for themselves and their families than they are focused on whether or not the food is local.
Jones said for people in such communities, it makes sense to bring in food that is healthier than fast food, even if the food is not local. “Then what we can do is try to make as much of that food as local as possible.”
Jones said there needs to be many strategies for improving access to healthful food for communities in need.
“In some cases, that’s people growing there own food. In some cases that’s community gardening. In some cases, in might be larger food production opportunities within a community itself. It might be a subsidized farmer’s market.”
A couple of years ago, Local Matters began using its Veggie Van as a mobile farmer’s market in various locations in communities in need of access to fresh, healthful food.
Jones said Local Matters sells the food as close to the cost they paid to local farmers as is feasible. When people buy produce through the Veggie Van or through the Greener Grocer, the Ohio DIRECTION card can be used.