Cost of Chicken data collection is powered by the Ushahidi’s open source mapping platform. Basically, anyone in the world with a computer (or a mobile phone) can add information that can be tagged to a location on a map and stamped with a date. It’s simple and amazingly valuable. Ushahidi calls this collection of information a crowdmap — data by the people for the people!
Last year (2010), we started a project: Deep Root Irrigation and Precipitation System, DRIPS for short. We designed a product that would help sustenance farmers all over the world grow a bit more food by using atmospheric water in a more directed way (transporting dew and fog to the roots of the plants). You can learn all about this on our website: DRIPS Project.
This year (2011), we are still focusing on food. We want to know the true cost of food — its price; the distance it traveled to get to our dinner tables; the people who grew it; the methods that were used to grow it; how it was produced; how good is it for us and for our environment. And we also want to know if there is food inequality — do some people have less access to good food then others? We noticed that some neighborhoods in the Bay Area where we live don’t have places that sell fresh produce! So for some people, it’s easy to buy high quality inexpensive food, and for others it’s almost impossible. That’s food inequality.
There’s also food insecurity — some people have to worry that they might not get enough to eat from day to day. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t have the money to buy food. Sometimes, it’s because there’s no food to buy.
Cost of Chicken project is about trying to find out where and why there’s food inequality and food insecurity. That’s why Ushahidi’s crowdmap is a perfect fit for our project — it allows us to gather information from all over the world and it lets everyone see the data right away. Because it’s not just about learning about food inequality and insecurity, it’s also about trying to fix the problem. And to fix the problem, we need to understand it.
Food is Energy; & We Need Energy to get Food
We started working on this project as part of EDF Design Challenge 2.0: ENCOURAGING RESPONSIBLE ENERGY BEHAVIOUR FOR BETTER LIVING.
What’s the most basic thing we can say about energy? Well, we all need energy to survive — we need food! Food is our energy source. And to get this energy, we need to expend energy — growing, preparing, gathering, and even eating food requires energy. It’s a tight cycle: we need food to get energy to live, and we need energy to get more food.
If we are interested in conservation and green energy, then what we are really interested in is trying to get food in the most ecologically sensitive way possible. We want to try to eat local food — this way we can save energy needed for food transportation. We want to reduce the amount of energy it takes to make food — we want to make sensible choices in food production. And we want to use green energy in all stages of production and transportation — this means using solar and wind power (and other clean energy sources), conserving water, reducing pollution, getting rid of waste.
We think everyone is for doing all of these things. And we think that everyone believes that no one should go hungry. So this project is about helping people become aware of food choices they make. By learning about true costs food around the world, we can encourage people to take more responsibility and to change their behavior for better living.
KIDs and FOOD
We hope to work with everyone who is interested in contributing to our project. And in particular, we hope to work with kids from around the world. Kids might not know much about politics, or health, or economics, or agriculture. But we all know about food! All kids like to eat good food. While we have food likes and dislikes, none of us like to go hungry. So kids understand food.
And food is a perfect communication medium — even if we don’t have a language in common, we get food. Strangers become friends over meals shared together. Families celebrate holidays and special occasions with family dinners — everyone coming together to share a meal. “Breaking bread” is an expression denoting the start of a relationship or reaffirming the bonds of friendship.
We hope kids post photos of food they eat and where it comes from. We hope they share information about prices and places and quality. And we hope that we all share something about where we live and how we live and learn about the lives of others. This is a true food anthropology project.
Trusted Food Reporters
We know that the Internet can be full of misinformation — data posted anonymously is suspect. But we know some kids that are/will be using our food crowdmap, and those we designate Trusted Food Reporters! These individuals collect real data that can be trusted. That will be marked as verified on the food reports.
As we get know more and more people who contribute to our project, we hope to designate more and more Trusted Food Reporters. If you would like to be a Trusted Food Reporter, please let us know, we would like to work with you. In the meantime, please check out the Trusted Food Reporters page to learn about those who have already earned that honor!