With guest columnist Chris Mefford
This month in the Economic Spotlight, Chris Mefford breaks down...
the smoke from fireworks clears we are finally allowed to expect summer
and celebrate a new season of local food bounty. The economy's
relationships with food are as varied and complex as choosing which type
of little potatoes to try from the farmers' market. Economists have
long tracked agriculture production and food exports. Our local
food-related employers are well prized, and economists are paying more
attention to the growing specialty foods industry. Dining out is a
significant part of the local entertainment industry, and playing catch
with salmon helps to reel in tourists all summer long.
interest in locally grown and produced food is notable, but, we seem
unable to decide whether to call this a niche, a trend, or something
more significant. Other connections between food and the economy too
often get relegated as indirect or externalities, such as the connection
between citizens' health and local economies; food safety and security;
environmental consequences of food choice; and cultural significance of
Here are few local economic measures of food to whet your appetite:
food and drink related agriculture exports totaled $14.7 billion in
2011, and Washington imported $2.4 billion in food products in 2011.
- Locally, the Seattle metro area employs at least 136,400 jobs in food production, food sales and dining establishments.
-Food production jobs total 12,300 in the Seattle area alone
-27,500 jobs are at food and beverage stores
-96,600 jobs are at restaurants and businesses devoted to food service (May 2012)[i]
- Gross revenues at King County restaurants, dining services, bars and taverns totaled an estimated $5.6 billion in 2011.[ii]
addition to dining out, King County residents spend an estimated $4.8
billion each year on groceries and food to eat at home (2011).[iii]
an important employment industry, good food is also a necessary input
for a community's production function. Public health leaders help us
understand the connection between access to healthy food, community
health and productivity. Food deserts (urban areas with little access to
healthy food) along with ever present access to cheap and unhealthy
food contribute to a lack of structural wellness in lower income
communities. Access to better food would increase health and
productivity for families in these underserved areas.
produced foods contribute to our community identity. Food defines how
we live together and how people from other regions perceive us, just as
their regional foods define them. For the Pacific Northwest, people see
us and we see each other for our salmon and other seafood, apples,
cherries, wine, coffee houses, microbrews and many other culinary
well and appreciate how important food is to our economy and quality of
life. Choose your food consciously, and try the Purple Majesties.
[iii] CAI estimate based on Claritas Consumer Buying Power data.