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Finding Out Where Your Food's From: The Food Map
Sarah Kuck, 16 Jan 09
mac and cheese

Image by Il Primo Uomo via Flickr

For those of us participating in the global economy, going to the grocery store is an international experience -- mangoes from Chile, a box of macaroni and cheese from Wisconsin, cocoa beans from Africa.

Food products travel thousands of miles just to reach the store shelves every day, but how often do we stop to think about this distance or its repercussions? A project-in-the-works called The Food Map is in the very early stages of bringing awareness to the issue of food miles and sustainability.

Two graduate students at the University of Wisconsin - Madison recently created the project as a way to "shed some light on the U.S. food network." Although still in its super-beta form (currently, you can use it to see how far different brands of mac and cheese have traveled to get to from the factory to your kitchen), the Food Map idea is visionary in is mission to create awareness and interest in knowing where our food has been.

Kai Johnson, one of the Food Map's creators, says that the idea for the Food Map was spurred by the love of food and the quest for knowledge. He hopes that this project will create an awareness that will change behaviors within the food system:

We believe that Awareness is absolutely paramount when you try to address any issue. However, this awareness is many times hard to come by, and most people do not have the time to investigate these things sufficiently to become educated consumers. Additionally, there are billions of dollars spent annually on advertisements that aim to keep our views focused on the surface and not dig deeper into the more interconnected reality. With The Food Map, we hope that we can make more people aware of the intricate and extensive interconnections of our current world by showing them a bit more about where their food has been. Potentially, this could be adapted to a number of other sectors of the economy: clothes, computers, cars, etc etc. Or also turned into a more wiki-style user produced content site. The more we know, the better informed we are in making decisions.

Creating awareness about the benefits of eating locally is not easy, especially when up against megaphone-style messaging from big name companies. But having a powerful visual, like the distractingly entertaining Food Map, and readily accessible information on the Internet, just might help the creators of this project achieve their mission of making the food network visible.

For more on the food system and food miles, see our archives:

Food Miles: Green Good Sense, Ill-Considered Hype, or Naked Protectionism?

Eating Really Local

Wrapping Our Heads Around the Global Food System

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This seems to be quite a task.
I would imagine that somebody could get hooked on this when he would be scanning the barcode of a product with his cel phone.
Just like you like to read the back of the corn flakes packaging in the morning, the cel would be spitting out but some real information about the product. So, next time, thereĀ“ll be other flakes.

Keep digging!
I like this idea very much.

Posted by: Bruno Winter on 21 Jan 09

I think this website will become particularly interesting when the ingredients breakdown is completely mapped. Often one can find food made within their own state or town, but the ingredients had to travel from across the globe to be combined in a factory.

Posted by: Jonathan on 30 Jan 09

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