Occupy Wall Street has everyone talking! “Do we regulate Wall Street?” “Should corporations be allowed to have the same rights as citizens?” “Did we do the right thing bailing out the banks that put our 401k’s at risk?” “What are the protester’s goals, demands, and common message?”
No matter what your point of view, no one can argue that the economy is in dire straights. Times are especially tough for all those that have suffered the loss of a job or a pay freeze or reduction; families that lost their home to foreclosure, or owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth; baby-boomers that lost 30% of their retirement savings; and twenty-somethings coming out of college owing more money for their diploma than they may reasonably expect to earn in the next 10 years. Times are tough for the small businesses, too, as they are faced with the decreased-consumer-spending-days reality of taking the “We’re Open” sign out of the window, or laying off a valued employee.
Americans are frantic, occupying the streets mad as hell, and demanding answers to the dozens of questions leaving us sleep-deprived and irritable after countless nights of finance fretting. Americans are desperate to assert control over their financial and social wellbeing, pounding at the gates of the powers that be. Their questions deserved to be answered, and hopefully will be in time. But, sooner than that, there is something we can do about it, now!
Every dollar we spend gives us an opportunity to help our friends’, families’, and neighbors’ by supporting local businesses that offer locally-provided services and locally-made goods. Picture it: You have your oil changed at the local garage, the head mechanic buys breakfast sandwiches from the local deli for the crew, and the deli owner buys eggs from a local farm, the farmer buys lumber from the local mill to build his new barn, the mill hires a new crew member to mill the lumber. When you spend locally, and others spend locally, then our dollars start recycling in the economy, and that means revenue and jobs for our friends, families and neighbors. No matter what your point of view, there are things we can do as conscientious consumers to earn social returns on the dollars we spend.
Perhaps the most fundamental example of this opportunity is how we choose to buy our food. Food is not a luxury, it’s a necessity- we have to eat food everyday, and that means that we have to buy food all the time (unless you’re amongst the fabulous farming 1% of Americans that grow your own food). We have a choice, all the time, to purchase local food or to purchase food that was raised in Mexico, trucked 1,500 miles, and sold to us by a supermarket conglomerate whose headquarters is located in Scarborough, Maine, Salt Lake City, Utah, or Essen, Germany.
Cornell University estimates that every dollar spent with a small farmer multiplies 3 – 4 times in the local economy. That means that if you spent $100 per month with a small farm, the monthly economic impact of your purchases would equal $300 to $400, or between $3,600 and $4,800 over the course of a year.
Now, imagine what would happen if each of the 318,225 households living in the Capital Region diverted just $100 of its monthly grocery budget from shopping at supermarkets to shop with local farms. The economic stimulus added to the CAPITAL REGION’s economy would quantify to $1.34 billion! Then, think jobs. With 29,700 unemployed individuals in the Capital Region, that added $1.34 billion quantifies to 29,700 jobs valued at $45,000 per year!
You’re buying food anyway! Vote with your dollars, vote with your fork, and make a difference! If we all bought $100 of local food each month, we could employ every one of our friends, neighbors and family members that are looking for work. Furthermore, if people in other regions did the same, we could turn things around nation-wide. We have the opportunity to set change into motion every time we eat. It takes a small commitment, and a measure of personal responsibility and accountability to be sure each of us does our part to better our situations.
We are a nation of the people, for the people and by the people. Take matters into your own hands, and own your choice. While we continue to hold our breath in the search for answers from Wall Street and Washington, don’t forget to eat.