Movies like “Food Inc.” and “Fresh” have put the pressure on grocery stores and other mass-market food vendors to defend their products. Safeway, a major U.S. supermarket chain, isn’t increasing the amount of local produce it sells, but it is highlighting what’s already there.
The company claims that almost a third of its produce comes from local sources–meaning an eight hour drive or less from farm to store. And, according to Safeway spokesperson Teena Massingill, shoppers can find more local produce on an item basis than at a standard farmer’s market.
As part of its program to promote local produce, Safeway is increasing the number of “Locally Grown” store displays and feature advertisements in each of its stores. Even though the program was officially launched this week, I noticed a number of new signs announcing local produce in my neighborhood Safeway earlier this month. Safeway has also entered promotional partnerships with local growers like Richter Farms in Decatur, Michigan and G&S Farms in Brentwood, California to familiarize shoppers with the farms that provide their food.
Safeway’s move to make its produce less anonymous is smart, but the company might consider evaluating the working conditions of the local farms it promotes. After all, just because a farm is local doesn’t mean its workers are treated fairly. And with over a thousand stores across the country, Safeway could make a big difference.