I thought of this word today and it just kept going around in my head – you know how much I love a good pun!

My thinking was that food has two kinds of Eatconomical value – one is Nutritional Benefit, the other is Local Benefit.

Local Benefit – LB

One of the things I do is help to run the Wexford Food Family and in that role I often discuss the importance of supporting local food producers and the effect your purchase choice has on your community and the families within that community.

This is part of what is generally known as the Local Multiplier Effect – a term coined by economist John Maynard Keynes, Britain’s most influential economist, in his 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

The Local Multiplier Effect refers to the number of times money is re-circulated within an local economy before leaving through the purchase of an import.

So, if a million Euro comes into an area and is spent on local goods and services and then re-spent by the recipients on more local goods and services, it acts like and has the benefit of several million Euro instead of just one.

However, if the million Euro is immediately spent on imports, the value remains the same.

When you choose what to spend your money on, no matter how small the item you are buying, the principal is the same. You either buy local and re-circulate your money, making the value of your Euro increase and give support to the people down the road who made that food who are in turn support local people who made their ingredients or you buy an import and reduce the benefit that your money brings the local economy.

Nutritional Benefit – NB

We have all got very canny when we’re out shopping for groceries nowadays, checking the cost per kilo or per litre before we buy.

However, the cost per quantity is, in a lot of cases, irrelevant.

What we should be calculating is the cost per nutrient, or per Nutritional Benefit. We should be choosing food that nourishes our bodies and our families, not food that just fills them or, even worse, makes them ill later in life.

Paying €1 per kilo for synthetic filler is not better value than paying €2 per kilo for nutritious fresh food.

It’s the Eatconomy, Stupid!

I am in no way anywhere near perfect myself, but I try to make an effort. For example, I buy free range chicken and free range organic when I can. I remember some years ago being at a function and the conversation around the table got on to how stupid would you have to be to pay the high prices that free range / organic chickens cost. At the time, I couldn’t get it together to respond – I actually felt stupid! Of course, afterwards, on the way home in the car, I was well able to counter-argue the points!

Now I would be able to tell them that paying a fiver for a cheap chicken isn’t really the clever thing to do – it has a low LB because, in general the factory farmed chicken will not be very local and where it is, the margins for the producer, in my opinion, to be able to sell at a very low price, make it unsustainable. It’s also thought to be of less nutritional value, so would rate a low NB. I try to look on a chicken as a challenge and try to get as many meals out of it as I can – usually a roast, a curry and a soup – now there’s value!

We all need to think more when we are buying our food – we really can make a difference to our health, our families and to our communities and local economy – sorry, eatconomy!

Chew it over and let me know what you think :-)