The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

No epiphanies, actually.

I shopped at the Davis Food Co-op on Sunday afternoon. I hadn't been in a while, mostly because I'd been in and out of town, and also it's sort of at the breaking point of my budget. Like, if I did all my shopping there, I couldn't afford to do all my shopping there? Hahaha. And also I just do not have time for artisanal oil-chore peanut butter. #skippy4lyfe

I went to the co-op because I just needed two things that weren't for sale at Safeway. Two ethnic things. And actually two pretty gringo things, frankly--pre-made tikka masala and a pack of soba noodles. Like, I wasn't seeking out some rare plant that only grows in one field in Thailand--though you bet the co-op sells that. They sell six kinds of pre-made polenta.

I love the co-op.

I joined it pretty soon after I moved here, because it hits so many of my food justice marks. It's a local business; it's a community-owned business; it gives money and food to community organizations and schools here in Davis; it sells responsibly-produced food; it sells local food; the staff is knowledgeable and only a little bit weird; they sponsor the kid's Christmas parade. They also have beer on tap.

But as I was making my plan to get the majority of my groceries at Safeway and then grab my ethnic foods from the co-op, I felt a tinge of...something. Like, I understand, from a logistical standpoint, why Safeway doesn't stock the same products as the co-op. The majority of Safeway's shoppers aren't clamoring for those things. And I do know that your local grocery store will order something for you if you don't see it on their shelves. (I did that, in Littleton, because my neighborhood Sprouts sold all sorts of Morningstar veggie burgers but not the tomato-basil ones, which are my favorite. They got them! It was great.)

But I do, of course, wonder how many people shop at my local Safeway who have never consumed the glory that is roasted veggies tikka masala because it isn't in the ASIAN FOODS 1/12th of one aisle. Admittedly, I am not the most adventurous eater or chef. But I have branched out into making some of my take-out favorites at home because the co-op has this whole south Asian extravaganza available. In a dream life, I'd spend half my afternoon venturing from the Mexican market to the Chinese grocer to the wherever, gathering up my ingredients from the raddest independent proprietors tucked away in suburbia. I'm sure they're there!

But I think step one is having a wider variety of global food options in the lowest common denominator (in my case, Safeway). Because by making these food items "niche" we've made them only for fancy white people like me to enjoy, timidly. We've made it so that international students (and other students of color) at UC Davis have to trek all over town to try and find those sweet potatoes like they eat at home (if they can find them). Or awkwardly excuse themselves from the group trip to Safeway--a classic social activity--with their roommates, because the food they want to buy isn't sold there. Or maybe I'm inventing this problem for these kids--maybe they are stoked to eat horrible American foods.

There are no epiphanies in this blog post. You've thought about this before and I've thought about this before and there's a whole nationwide movement to change food access blah blah blah. I just want every kid to eat stuff that's delicious and good for them and interesting! And I want kids to eat food from all over the world so that they don't think American food (whatever that is) is better that Asian-American food or African-American food. And I want their parents to be able to afford it. That's all.

Do Not Be Afraid -- A Sermon on Jeremiah and Jesus and You

How long, O Lord?