The Reason I Love the Food Box (It's Not What You Expect)

A food box is a service that delivers a box of food (mostly fruits and vegetables) to your door every week.  My beloved and I have been getting them for a while now, and I love them. Before I explain why, I will tell you reasons other people love the food box, but don't impress me.

Bad reason 1) It's organic. 

There is no evidence that organic food is any better for you. If you inhale or inject too many pesticides, you will be hurt, but as my man Alex Gill says, everything is poisonous; it's just a matter of dosage. There is no scientific evidence that non-organic food is any worse for you.

Although organic farming might be better for the soil, because farmers are not using the strongest pesticides, you end up throwing out a lot of food. Lots of people like to eat food without pesticides, but so do pests. You end up using more farmland to get the same amount of edible food if you're going organic.

So environmentally, there appears to be a trade off, and in terms of health, there is no benefit. Since there's usually an extra cost for organic food, I would prefer, actually, if my food box were non-organic. But there are no non-organic food box services in Ottawa.

Bad reason 2) It's locally grown.

Well, some of it is. They get what they can from greenhouses and regular local farms. But we get bananas too.

People like locally grown food because of the environmental benefit. I'm not convinced that there is a benefit at all. When food is brought from long distances, it's usually shipped in bulk. The economies of scale sometimes can mean that it's less expensive, in terms of fuel, to bring an orange from Florida here in a big truck full of oranges than to drive an orange in a pick up truck full of oranges ten miles.

My box is delivered by a van, to my house. This means that instead of my walking down the block to the grocery store and back, somebody is driving around, delivering the food boxes. I'm not convinced we're doing the environment any favours.

The other thing people like about local food is that they are helping their immediate community. I think it's natural to care about the people around you more than people far away, but I also think it's wrong to do so. I have not heard a convincing argument in favour of helping local Canadians rather than helping, say, Mexicans. With a global view, everyone needs the business. In Mexico they need it even more.

So I don't particularly mind that the food is local when it can be, but I wouldn't be happy if I were paying more to help some Canadian farmer at the expense of an Argentinian, for example.

Which brings me to the actual reasons I love, I adore, the food box.

Good reason 1) It enforces variety.

We get crazy vegetables. Vegetables I've never heard of. Vegetables I would not buy because I don't know how they taste and I don't know how to cook them. Swiss chard. Pattypan squash (pictured).

Usually, when we shop, we buy things we know what to do with, and that makes us risk averse. We end up eating the same things. Now I get yellow tomatoes, weird garlic. I have to search for recipes. We've been pleasantly surprised so often. I feel like my food palate is growing a lot.

A related benefit is that opening the food box is a little like opening a Christmas stocking. We don't know what we're getting week to week.

Good reason 2) It encourages me to eat vegetables.

Even with a small food box, it's a struggle to eat all of those vegetables in a week. The result is that I'm constantly trying to eat them. I make vegetable frittatas for breakfast. I munch raw wax beans while I watch The Clone Wars. We don't go out shopping for dinner very often-- it's a matter of figuring how how to eat what we already have. If you want more vegetables in your diet-- and you probably should, if you eat a Western diet-- it's so great.

Good reason 3) It's cheaper (I think).

I'm not sure about this, but I believe it's cheaper for us to get this food box delivered than it would be to buy them at Hartman's Independent, the centretown grocery store on our block.

Good reason 4) Ethical Milk and Cheese.

Factory farms are hell on Earth for the animals that live in them, and I really don't like supporting them. I buy eggs from my co-worker Lianne, who raises chickens. Through the food box I can get milk and cheese from Quebec. The farm gives tours (factory farms tend not to) and I don't believe we have factory farms in Quebec or Ontario. So by drinking this milk and eating this cheese (it's delicious), I don't have to pay my meat offsets. If you don't know what I'm talking about, see my previous blog entry on the subject:
The milk is definitely not cheaper than grocery store milk, but I can't find ethical milk elsewhere.

We love the food box and recommend it to anyone who finds compelling any of the reasons above.

Pictured: Romanesco broccoli or fractal broccoli is an edible flower of the species Brassica oleracea and a variant form of cauliflower. I ate this recently too from our food box. We use Ottawa Organics and are quite happy with it.

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Hey - I also love our food box here. Another reason to love it - I find that the food tends to be fresher. It hasn't been sitting on store shelves and being manhandled.

I realize that organic fruits and veggies aren't necessarily better for one. I find that they taste better - sometimes significantly better.
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