The Food: Bananas
The issue: Very, very not locavore, and not winning any stars for labor practices, either. Add to that the banana industry’s notorious use of pesticides harmful to both workers and land.
The fix: Unless you live in the tropics and grow them in your backyard, there is no local or sustainable banana. Consider getting your potassium from apples, which are in season and abundant at all the big-name grocery stores from July through October.
The Food: Soy
The issue:You thought it was healthy. Soy is overgrown, generally highly sprayed, and the USDA reports that it has more acreage dedicated to genetically modified plants than any other domestic crop.
The fix: Finding soy products with the USDA-certified organic label—meaning they can’t contain genetic modifications—is easy, since it includes widely available products like WestSoy Organic Milk (Pathmark and Whole Foods) and Nasoya Organic Tofu (A&P and Whole Foods).
The Food: Tomatoes
The issue: Primarily labor. The price for a 32-pound bucket, currently an average of 45 cents, hasn’t been raised significantly since 1978. The average salary for a tomato picker in the U.S. is a numbing $10,000 to $12,000 per year.
The fix: Buy only during tomato season, from July through October, and buy from smaller farms in the Northeast, which tend to pay fairer wages than the big industrial guys in Florida and Mexico. Two big names in the local tomato world: Eckerton Hill Farm and Stokes Farm (both are at the Union Square Greenmarket).
The Food: Lettuce
The issue: Lettuce is a water-hungry crop, but much of what’s in stores is grown in California and Arizona where getting adequate irrigation can be problematic.
The fix: Again, buy local and seasonal (from May through October) from farms like Gorzynski Ornery and Keith’s Farm, available at Union Square Market. The Northeast is plenty wet for lettuce-growing and our climate supports many varieties. If you’re buying out of season, pick a head grown east of the Mississippi River.