SOIL, Food Mapping
By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, April 5, 2010
- Middle School
- Green Design
- Social Studies
- Growing – This first step happens on a farm, in a garden, or even in the ocean if it is a fish farm. This is the step where your food is grown.
- Transporting - This is the point where food is divided up and delivered many places. Whole foods from a farm can be delivered to grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, and even factories. How it is transported can also vary greatly – from a person on foot to a refrigerated truck, from a cargo ship, to a jet.
- Changing/Processing- Food is changed to make another product. Sometimes it is changed to alter the flavor or to make it last longer, or to make new foods altogether. Processing can include things like canning, freezing, heating, drying, adding preservatives to food or removing fat (low-fat).
- Packaging – This is a method of protecting food from spoilage on its way to markets and grocery stores. It divides up goods into equal quantities, and provides a place for advertising. Some materials used for packaging are paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, and aluminum.
- Buying – At this point food producers and companies determine what consumers want or need. Sometimes the marketers make you think you need something so you will buy it. They decide how to make people want to buy a kind of food. (Example: the cartoon characters from cereal boxes were created to catch children’s eyes.) A big portion of the money you pay for a product goes to the marketing costs. Over $10 billion a year is spent advertising food and beverage items to children and teens. The second aspect of “buying” is where the consumer gets the product. Food can be sold in a variety of places, from grocery stores or restaurants to farmers markets and CSAs.
- Preparing/Cooking – Cooking can happen at home, restaurants, or in lunchrooms like in a school or hospital. You can cook “from scratch” or you can buy a frozen meal and heat it in the microwave. When we eat at a restaurant or lunchroom, someone else does the cooking. Many times, buying “heater meals” means there was more that happened to food in the “processing” step, than when a meal is made to eat immediately.
- Consuming/Eating – This is the step where we finally eat the food.
- Disposing or Reusing – Finally, food scraps and food packaging left over after a meal can have a couple of potential fates. Recycling: Leftover food can be used to make compost, a rich organic fertilizer to add to a garden or farm. The food ends up where it started. Packaging such as paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass can be recycled. Disposing: Throwing away food scraps and/or packaging. Waste is taken to a landfill, or dump where it is compacted and covered with layers of soil.
- Food production and delivery require a great deal of fossil fuels.
- Soil, water, and air pollution. In the Midwest, the Mississippi River often floods. Runoff from fertilizer makes the water toxic not only near the flood area but for everything downstream from it.
- Soil erosion and depletion.
- Elimination of beneficial microorganisms in soil. Loss of wildlife on the farm.
- Insects and bacteria develop resistance to pesticides, creating “super pests.”
- Processed foods have less nutrition and more chemicals than whole foods.
- Loss of plant and animal diversity.
Environmental Issue Environmental Impact Health Impact
Hamburger New Zealand
Box of Cereal Tennessee
Ice Cream Wisconsin
- Map Number 41 Fruit Exports
- Map Number 42 Fruit Imports
- Map Number 43 Vegetables Exports
- Map Number 44 Vegetables Imports
- Map Number 45 Dairy Exports
- Map Number 46 Dairy Imports
- Map Number 47 Cereals Exports
- Map Number 48 Cereals Imports
- Map Number 49 Meat Exports
- Map Number 50 Meat Imports
- Map Number 51 Fish Exports
- Map Number 52 Fish Imports
- Map Number 53 Groceries Exports
- Map Number 54 Groceries Imports
- Map Number 55 Alcohol And Cigarettes Exports
- Map Number 56 Alcohol And Cigarettes Imports
- Map Number 177 Undernourishment in 1990
- Map Number 178 Undernourishment in 2000
- Map Number 182 Underweight Children
- Map Number 363 International Food Aid
- Map Number 364 International Fast Food
- Organic local farms – Many organic farms are creating sustainable and local food sources for urban and suburban communities isolated from agricultural lands.
- Local Purchasing – Many restaurants and cafes choose to purchase only local ingredients in their stores.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - A cooperative system where interested consumers purchase a share (a.k.a. a "membership" or a "subscription") with a local farm. In return members receive seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
- Farmers market – Farmers markets are marketplaces for local produce and products. Farmers setup a stand once a week in a downtown location to access diverse populations.
- School/Home Gardening – one of the simplest ways to make your food more local is to grow it yourself. If you have a backyard or even a windowsill you can begin to grow your own herbs, food crops and more.
- System Factors – climate, region
- Environmental Impacts – how does this new system reduce environmental impacts?
- System Elements – what makes your new food system local?
- Food Mile Reduction – how many miles are now reduced on average because of the new system?
- Do you find it surprising that food consumption contributes so much to your carbon footprint?
- Would you consider becoming vegan or vegetarian to help the environment? Why or why not?
- Name one way that you could improve your design. Why would you change this aspect?
Enrichment Extension Activities
- Take a field trip to a local farm or community garden. Help with feeding the animals or with the farm work or gardening. Students can learn firsthand where their food comes from and the work that is required to grow food.
- Do a taste test! Compare the flavor and texture of locally grown produce with produce that was shipped to your supermarket from another region or country. Can your students tell the difference?
- Students can research the new Back-to-the-Land movement. They can interview local urban, suburban or rural back-to-landers about their choices and methods of food production. Students can use this research to begin a food production plan for their own backyard or school--whether it is through gardening, beekeeping or raising livestock.