Visualising the Challenge & Solutions

Like many people, we’ve been really enjoying the proliferation of infographics around the world, instantly shareable across space & time, direct to our inbox, twitter feed & being tagged by friends on facebook

Yesterday we stumbled across a cool little animation of Michael Pollan’s RSA speech entitled ‘Food Rules’ (also the title of his new book).  We thought it was worth a share;

We’ve also been loving the wonders of Food+Tech Connect’s infographic updates – well worth tuning into their stream!

In the meantime, here’s a couple of our favourite infographics going around at the moment:

Infographic of the breakdown of national foodsheds in USAcourtesy of ArchiCulture

Wired Magazine release 9 infographics about the food systemcheck out more from Wired Magazine at their article about the Future of the Food System infographics page

PETA infographic about the reason to go VeganPETA try to woo us to go vegan with their infographic showing resource use in meat production

Revealing the true cost & economic realities of Farmer Subsidies in USAthe cold hard economic facts & health statistics from GoBankingRates about Government subsidies for certain crops in the USA

An infographic about making the right choice, a choice for Organicscourtesy of Cool Infographics who created this great insight into why we should choose organic food, for Organics Canada

We’ll also throw in this other quirky Michael Pollan ‘Food Rules’ video for your viewing pleasure:

Send us links to your favourite infographics today!

We also want to acknowledge the fine work of groups like Sustaination in the UK, Real Time Farms & Local Harvest in the US, and Local Harvest Australia who are doing wonders to visualise the local food movement in their regions.

Disasters, Reflections & Resilience

Reflecting back on 2011, you don’t get very far without thinking of the various disasters that seem to have been hitting us in waves this year.

Image courtesy of CPL Janine Fabre (http://bit.ly/rKXKnf)

Whether it was the devastation wrought by the ‘biblical’ floods in Australia, the horrific earthquakes in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Turkey & Japan, the nuclear disaster that resulted, the ferocious storms which rolled into the US, volcano ash disrupting world travel, famines threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, epic floods in Asia, or the man made disasters like the Rena Oil Spill.  It’s been a year with a lot of hurt around the world.

Even look just here in NZ, things seem to have been somewhat topsy turvy – the fall out from the Christchurch Earthquake is still ongoing (including a total rebuild of the central business district which is the heart of the city), there are still volunteers on the beaches cleaning up the oil spill, and we’re still wondering how there was snow falling in central Wellington.

One thing we’ve learned is that all of these events seem to affect our food system.  When the snow fell, we found the shelves were bare.  When the earthquake hit, we found supermarkets took weeks to get back up & running.  When the floods hit QLD, we heard stories of people isolated with no food.

Image courtesy of hugovk http://bit.ly/uULdCa

What we learnt, is that our current food system is remarkably fragile.  We learnt that in an emergency, we can’t rely on supermarkets for our food as they have complicated supply chains. What we learnt is that people looked inward to their communities for help and support.

Disasters and times of extreme stress show us the true state of our resilience, and all over the world, we were found lacking.

The strongest calls we’ve had for our software, here in NZ, are from those who have seen and experienced these events first hand.  The calls have come from community groups have formed as the dust settles in Christchurch, they’ve come from entrepreneurs who managed to get food direct from farms to customers when the snow blocked roads, and they’ve come from people involved in the transition movement who see our food system is built on a fuel source which will soon run out.

So, would you like some specifics?

Queensland Floods, Australia – food chains were trucking food around the country to aggregate supply and demand, but massively failed the population whilst leaving people hungry, pushing up food costs and polluting the atmosphere.  Part of this was due to agreements with big farms who are willing to engage in monocropping & mass production, whilst the smaller farms in the region are forced to sell direct to customers.  Thankfully, the awesome Food Connect were on hand, to source food from the local farmers, pay them a fair rate, package the food up, and get it out to their customers. Despite the ‘biblical’ floods. Hear Rob Pekin from Food Connect talking about their flood experience here.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Hanger http://bit.ly/ve5wx0

In New Zealand, when we had our intense snowfalls, farmers had smaller harvests which supermarkets & wholesalers wouldn’t take as they didn’t meet the ‘bulk purchase’ orders.  So whilst we were starved of greens in Wellington’s bigger supermarkets, one crafty team at Organic Boxes were able to take those smaller yields, and deliver them to the population through their vege box scheme.  I even heard of one of their ‘delivery drivers’ paddling boxes to people’s doors… report unconfirmed, but awesome if it’s true!  Needless to say their customers were delighted & thankful…

Photo courtesy of geoftheref http://bit.ly/syzqdb

When the earthquake hit Christchurch, people knew things weren’t going to be normal for quite some time, however frustration grew as the food distributors struggled to maintain regular service from their disparate supply chains from around the country.  In fact there were reports of food rotting in fields as food was being trucked in from around the country. Some of NZ’s largest food distributors did come to the rescue, and we credit them for that, but it highlighted just how disconnected we have become from where our food comes from, and how local food systems should work.  Several community groups have sprung up in the aftermath to tackle food resiliency in their areas as they now see that it is their own communities that will provide the answers in the aftermath of any future shocks.

So what do we see as the problems here?

  • We are not connected closely to local growers
  • As a farm, if you’re not big, you’re not wanted (by large supermarkets)
  • The food system is currently reliant on oil
  • When economics is all that drives your business, you wont necessarily go the extra yard if it doesn’t make you short term gains

Interestingly OpenIDEO recently ran a challenge with the Queensland Government around the need for local food resiliency, and there were plenty of ideas that flowed out of it.  So many in fact, that the Queensland Government were overwhelmed by the volume & complexity of the solutions.  They’re still working on a couple of the solutions, but there is plenty of inspiration there for people around the world to keep working on these issues.  I would also suggest you take a look at Food+Tech Connect which has a special interest in the intersection of Food and Technology, and how it can fuel a better food system.

Some solutions:

  • We all need a regional food economy with a variety of local food distribution enterprises which support local growers, and link them to local consumers, without the need for massive profits & power imbalances in between..
  • Be a concious consumer – think about what you buy, and where it comes from. Food is not a commodity so much as a deeply personal resource which we buy with alarming regularity. Make a choice which supports other people in the community around you.
  • Decouple ourselves from oil-based food systems, and return to mainstream organic farming. And yes, Organic Farming can feed the world, despite what the oil companies tell us.
  • Grow at home! Start with herbs, perhaps branch out to tomatoes in pots, or even a raised bed. Here’s some great tips on growing at home & sustainable living.

Do you want to know more about local food? Here’s our jargon buster if you’re keen to learn more!

Awesome pic courtesy of gregw http://bit.ly/vpjUEn

#OccupyFood

It’s been a while since @OccupyWallSt kicked off, and turned things upside down around the world.

Several things about Occupy have stuck with me as we learn more about the ideals, motivations and purpose of the movement, and what it is evolving into.

I never saw that Occupy was about anti-capitalism or radical views. I saw Occupy was about Conversation. I see the movements around the world modelling a society they want to live in, about showing that consensus is possible, and that ‘inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere’.

When I look at Occupy through the lens of our Food systems, I see several of the same things happening, and indeed there has been a lot of involvement from various food system educators & advocates in the discussions.

We see a crumbling system which is failing us – industrialised food is causing harm and inequality around the world to people and planet.  We see the need for a platform of robust discussion about the status quo, and conversation about what is possible.  We see that technology has changed so much, that a localised, distributed food system is possible. We see that economics are controlling a system which is much more complex than money alone.

We’re looking to see how this brighter future can be realised, and we’re seeing the Local Food Movement has already started, and is growing every day.  We see that a widescale return to organic farming is already happening (at exponential growth of 20% per year!).

We see that now is the time to take back our food system.

Not only does Bucky Box stand for a Food System which is friendly to People & Planet, but we also consider Poverty & Hunger part of our mandate. We see farmers getting a fair deal as part of our mandate.  We see food distributor accountability as part of our mandate. We see transparency for Consumer decision making as part of our mandate.

Join us in a better food system, starting today.

Bucky Box catalyses local food from Bucky Box on Vimeo.

Here’s some further takes on Occupying Food:

What is your take on the growing food movement, and how it relates to what is going on with Occupy?

What kind of a food system would you like to see in the future?

What platforms already exist to discuss how big food is impacting our people & planet?