When we see endless rows of shelves stocked with every product we could imagine, do we ever stop to ask where our food is coming from? Many of us do, this accounts for upcoming movements like CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, and the demand for locally grown organic products.
Throughout her time in Panajachel, Guatemala, anthropologist Ioulia Fenton experienced the first hand connection with her food that many westerners are seeking. She purchased produce, dairy, and other items from local growers and suppliers, despite the fact that she lived right next to a grocery store. The personal relationships she developed each day were much more meaningful than a trip to the super market. Ioulia Fenton’s consumption was not between her and super market shelves, it was based on her ability to connect with her community, and establish trust with the people who prepared her food. On one occasion, Fenton underpaid a local grower by fifteen cents. She didn’t hesitate to rush back and pay the women, something we wouldn’t consider doing had we underpaid a cashier at a grocery store. The reason for this is that when we support the local economy, we invest emotionally in our products and the people who make them. Our consumption becomes based on trust, friendship, and a social responsibility to support local producers and the community. Grocery stores put up a wall between customers and products, and excludes local growers.
Although anthropologists recognize grocery stores as a social ritual, they can also be isolating for consumers. “It seems as though I am not the first or the last person to crave a more connected type of consumption” (Fenton). Consumption can be used to create trust and reliance between producers and consumers, and create a stronger community.