Posts Tagged ‘ economics ’

Wasted Food

There was an amazing article on CNN today: Moldy matters: How wasted food is destroying the environment.

A third of all food products worldwide go uneaten! — from a 2011 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report

We’ve been collecting data on the food people buy, but it is equally important to keep track of the food people waste! Please read!

Also, we’ve entered the data in the article into our Crowdmap:

Food for Thought: Sustainability from Counter to Compost

Just watched this video — how appropriate is this? Here’s the description from YouTube:

Food for Thought: Sustainability from Counter to Compost – Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming – 2008-02-26 – The usual reaction to scarfing down a slice of pizza is: how will this affect my diet? The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and more and more Americans, now look at the food we all eat and ask: how does this affect our world’s carbon diet? Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee began looking into the process and choices our nation makes regarding food and agriculture and how those choices affect our environment, specifically the “carbon footprint” of how we grow, raise, transport, package, dispose of and otherwise provide sustenance to Americans and people around the world. And while changing the way the world creates and consumes energy is the most effective way to combat global warming, so-called “lifestyle” choices like the food we eat will play an increasing role in how to make immediate cuts in the pollution that causes global warming. Witnesses: Dan Beard, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), House of Representatives; Carina Wong, Executive Director, Chez Panisse Foundation; Patricia D. Millner, Ph.D, Research Microbiologist in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory and Environmental Microbial Systems Laboratory, USDA; Tom Kelly, Ph.D., Chief Sustainability Officer, University of New Hampshire Office of Sustainability. Video provided by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cost of Chicken Video

So here it is: The Cost of Chicken video! This is our 2 minute video submission to the EDF Sustainable Design Challenge. All the kids you see in this video worked hard to make this project happen!

Social Supermarkets

With economy in bad shape, Greeks are taking food and food insecurity into their own hands — Social Supermarkets! The basic idea is to feed families who can’t afford to buy enough food and have to go without — hungry. People who can, donate food to the Social Supermarket in their community. Those who need the food go “shopping”. Sometimes, neighborhoods grow their own food and contribute part of the harvest to the Social Supermarket in their area. Here’s the story: Ingenuity and allotments provide relief in Greece.

Here is San Francisco, we have food centers which do something similar. People who can, donate food, and those who need it, get packages of food that help tie things over, reducing food insecurity.

We posted a TEDxManhattan video about people growing food and donating the extra that they can’t eat to those who need it: Changing the Way We Eat — TEDx Manhattan. It all makes sense!

Cost of Chicken App Idea

So we’ve started the design of our Cost of Chicken App: Eco-Footprint Tracker. (We’re still working out the name.)

It would work something like this:

  1. Work with food producers to place QR Codes on their products. Each code provides a URL with information on the true cost of food: how far it has been trucked to be available locally; how long it has been stored (e.g. apples are stored for months prior to being delivered to supermarkets); how much energy it took to produce the food; and how much the packaging costs. Distance, production and manufacturing, storage, and marketing are all factors that contribute to the total expenditure of our planet’s resources.
  2. Once we have the QR codes, we can quickly add up all of the groceries that are being purchased and generate an approximate size of the eco-footprint for that consumer for that day.
  3. Each person (or family) could have an account that tracks all of their food purchases. This data could be graphed (or displayed in other ways) to allow people to visualize their choices in terms of the ecological consequences.

The app could work even without the QR Codes: a consumer can just enter the type of food they bought, and the app calculates the approximate eco-footprint.

It could look something like this:
QR code tracks the cost of chicken to generate eco-footprint

Unstable Food Prices

Heifer International organizes school children in U.S. into buying animals for farmers around the world. When Tim and I were in Middle School, we both participated in Heifer International program and our classes bough many animals for farmer in Africa.

Stephen C. Smith from George Washington University wrote an article for Heifer International: The Triple Threat of Unstable Food Prices … and What Can Be Done About It. The article talks about the causes of recent food price instabilities: energy markets, financial markets, and speculation — meaning the price of food depends on the price of oil, the price of other everyday items and the cost of doing business, and the “nervousness” caused by possible rising prices.

One of the interesting graphs shows in the article is one depicting the proportion of total income families from around the world spend on food. Here’s the graph (you can click on it are go read the article on Heifer International):

Graph of Family Spending on Food

In U.S., a typical family spends 7% of its income on food. But in Kenya, almost half of all the money the family earns goes into feeding the family. It’s easy to see that if the food prices rise fast (and income doesn’t), families can easily go hungry or choose food over school or medical care.

I don’t know if our Cost of Chicken crowdmap can document the fluctuating costs of food around the world, but I see that it is important.

Edible Sensors Let You Know If Your Food Is Spoiled

gold and silk spoil food sensor
Do you know how to pick a ripe watermelon? Our mom hits it like a drum — if it sounds deep and empty, then it’s good. …or not. Sometimes, definitely not good. So now there are sensors that are stuck on the skin of the food directly to tell how far along its ripeness (or foulness) the fruit is! Check out the article from Gizmodo: Edible Sensors Let You Know If Your Food Is Spoiled.

Changing the Way We Eat — TEDx Manhattan

This is a cool TEDx talk about setting up a sharing mechanism to allow people who grow food in their gardens to given away the extra: to give the food that would be thrown out to someone who is hungry!

Watch the video or visit Ample Harvest website!

Lowell School Economics Class

Yesterday, we took a class photo of Ms. Lubenow’s AP Economics class. Here we all are holding the little stickers for Ushahidi! All those data points from San Francisco? That’s our work!

Tim's Economic's Class at Lowell High School

About Cost of Chicken Project

Ushahidi Logo


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!

DRIPS in a field helping potatoes grow

Why Food?

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.

EDF Sustainable Design Challenge Tag


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!

Submit a Cost of Chicken Report