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Friday, June 4, 2010

Can Underground Markets Help Create Broad Economic Stability?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Pork bun sellers at the SF Underground Market. - SLOWPOKE SF/FLICKR
  • slowpoke sf/Flickr
  • Pork bun sellers at the SF Underground Market.
Our favorite morsel from the blogs.

Grist's Tom Philpott goes all urban anthropologist today, examining the burgeoning micro-entrepreneur scenes in Brooklyn and San Francisco. He cites Julia Moskin's Wednesday New York Times story about the Greenpoint Food Market, and Carol Ness's Chron piece from last week about Oakland's Pop-Up General Store.

On a day, coincidentally, when the SF Underground Market is raging in SOMA, Philpott sees these surges in grassroots food-selling hopeful, the first signs of diverse local economies that'll bolster security for their cities. Now if only local regulatory agencies didn't mess things up by requiring vendors to get licenses and permits.


At a time of high unemployment, we've got skilled people bringing new products to market; we've got consumers willing to pay a fair price for those products; and a bunch of bottlenecks in between, including regulatory ones. Sounds like what New York City needs to do is invest in an inspected community kitchen, and make it available to its budding food artisans at an affordable price. (San Francisco is lucky enough to have the community supported commercial kitchen, La Cocina, which has enabled numerous low-income Mission district residents and others to become food entrepreneurs.) All sorts of wonderful synergies would become possible ― they could group together and buy certain staples, including locally grown produce, in bulk; they could get their products safely and efficiently to market ― say, by banding together to rent a truck once a week. And so on.
And so on. Let's hope policy makers and bureaucrats are reading.

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