Eating well in a new neighborhood

One of my goals for this winter has been to establish new foodways for our family here in San Francisco.  It’s important to me to bring food into our home that is nourishing, delicious, and grown in a sustainable way. It turns out that doing this in San Francisco is pretty different from doing it in Boston.

My first big question was which CSAs to sign up for, but Esther (who helpfully moved here from Boston ahead of us – thanks Esther!) gave an answer something like, “well, maybe none?”  That’s because there’s the Rainbow Grocery Coop which partially functions like a farmer’s market and there are farmer’s markets themselves – all year long!   Still, I miss actually having direct communication with some of the people producing our food and I notice that without the promptings of the CSAs, I’m bringing home plenty of berries, avocados, and onions, but fewer dark, leafy greens (and almost no oranges because in California in January & February all the oranges I’ve gotten have been so-so — what gives?).

I wonder a lot about the many small grocery stores around our neighborhood.  Most of what they have for sale is not organic.  But it is so very convenient.  Fussy toddler?  Pop into a corner grocery, because there’s sure to be one wherever we are, get her some fresh fruit, and she’s happy again.  The other night my partner found pineapples at 2 for a dollar, so he bought 2.  But why were they so ridiculously cheap and 3 times as much on the next corner?  I like supporting the small local businesses, but I’m less clear on the impact of my food purchases in terms of their whole production.

And then there are the ubiquitous food carts.  Who knows where their mangoes come from?  My Spanish is just barely strong enough to muddle through a purchase.  But they’ll squeeze a lime into the baggy of sliced fruit, sprinkle some salt and chili, and Bridget and I are happy, happy eaters. 

So now I’m getting our food from dozens of mostly pretty small sources, which I have the luxury to easily do as a stay at home mom.  After Bridget’s nap most days we go out for groceries, sometimes visiting half a dozen shops before we come home to prepare dinner. That might not be a sustainable system for our family when work and daycare start up.

It’s certainly all still a work in progress.  How do you decide where to get your food?  Does convenience sometimes have to trump other food values or can you have it all?

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