How far does your food travel?

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When I was searching for the distances of how far the food traveled, it was difficult to find the actual amount of miles for some foods, like bananas. A label on a banana states “Ecuador” or “Costa Rica” instead of an exact address. Instead of approximating the miles between a country and Pittsburgh, which is very broad, I searched online. The best website I found was the distance fruits and vegetables travel to get to Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is approximately 400 miles away from Pittsburgh. I considered adding 400 to the statistics I found but I felt uncomfortable changing the official statistics so I left the distances as approximates. The distances the foods travel to get to Chicago are far enough to make a point.

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My ideal audience was University of Pittsburgh students that shop in the campus grocery store called Quick Zone in Towers. Students that live on campus tend to shop at Quick Zone while they still have a meal plan. This is a good target audience because the students are generally younger, it’s their first time living on their own, and they have not yet developed a real grocery shopping habit.

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I thought that the idea of my project was simple yet bold. It quietly commented an important topic in Pittsburgh and actually a topic in our whole country. Unless we are reminded of some parts of our lives like where our trash goes, how our wastewater is sanitized, or how our food get to us, we forget. The process getting food to our tables, to our dining halls, is mostly unrecognized. The timing of the project is perfect because we are only a few more months away from Farmer’s Market season. I hope that my project was memorable enough to make some students pause for a short moment and think about where their food comes from. I hope that when they pass by a Farmer’s Market this season they remember the little sign I stuck on the strawberry container and make a small change in their grocery shopping routine.

My on the ground aspect of my project is bolder than its digital counterpart. One reason for this is many of my twitter followers consist of my classmates and organizations in support of community gardens or buying local. As a result, my post does not take any digital risks in regard to audience. My on-the-ground circulation did the opposite. Quick zone is a very small store and I find myself passing through the fruit and vegetable section even if I’m not purchasing produce. As a result, both students that normally buy produce and others that avoid it were forced to walk by my small signs.

The smallness of the store was a positive and a negative part of my project. The size had to potential to catch the attention of shoppers because of the small isles. However, the size also allowed the store employees to notice I was taping signs to their produce. Because of this, I felt obligated to ask for their permission. Ideally, if I were rebellious enough, I would sneak the signs into the fruits and vegetables and leave them there for students to notice.

Sadly, I’m a rule follower so I asked permission to put up the signs and assured them I would take the signs down. I only left one sign up in the orange basket but returned later to find that someone tossed my sign in the garbage.

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9 thoughts on “How far does your food travel?

  1. ebp6 March 31, 2015 / 6:22 pm

    I think this was a really nice way to raise awareness in a simple way. Putting the signs where students would see them was good, too, because I feel like students take what they eat for granted when they have a meal plan, and definitely don’t think about where that food came from. I’m even surprised by how many miles some of it traveled. Definitely thought-provoking.

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  2. pjs73 March 31, 2015 / 8:28 pm

    This is a topic I think very few people (me included) are aware of and this is a great way to get the main idea across. I liked the hand-drawn signs because it made it look artsy and student-made, which I think is important because it makes them more noticeable. The fact that a lot of the produce traveled so far to get to market-to-go is interesting. I never really ponder how far my food has to travel or how fresh it is, I just trust the distributor. Great stuff!

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  3. jtepp01 March 31, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Certainly, I never really think about where my food comes from or how long it took to get there. That being said, it seems to be a relevant issues. Aesthetically you created signs that should easily catch people’s eyes. They’re simply, colorful and have a powerful fact. That being said, I worry that these signs, too, would be taken for grante and just brushed of as an interesting fact. This is the nature of most, as it’s hard to truly catch someone’s attention.

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  4. jtepp01 March 31, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Certainly, I never really think about where my food comes from or how long it took to get there. That being said, it seems to be a relevant issues. Aesthetically you created signs that should easily catch people’s eyes. They’re simply, colorful and have a powerful fact. That being said, I worry that these signs, too, would be taken for granted and just brushed of as an interesting fact. This is the nature of most, as it’s hard to truly catch someone’s attention.

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    • cjc127 April 1, 2015 / 12:11 am

      People brushing off the signs as an interesting fact was actually something I considered while I was making the cards, so I’m really glad you brought it up. I was thinking about adding a citation at the bottom of the cards and surrounding the miles traveled cards with more thought provoking facts of where our food comes from. I ended up keeping it simple because I thought a lot of text would make people less likely to look at the project. If I had more time to experiment, maybe I would try to make it a more complex display that doesn’t allow itself to be brushed off. Thanks for your comment!

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  5. latarabo April 1, 2015 / 10:54 am

    I really enjoyed keeping up with this topic and what you have been doing with it. I never realize where my fruits and veggies are coming from besides when it is stated on the label above it. I definitely agree with you when you say that this project couldn’t have been timed anymore perfectly since farmers market season is coming up (so excited)!! I think that the cards you made were enough to provoke someone to ask themselves what it meant instead of just saying “cool my carrots travelled 1774 miles. I never really think about this myself, so it was interesting to see the facts and statistics you had come up with. Great work on a really interesting topic!

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  6. psm16 April 1, 2015 / 3:07 pm

    I think this was a really cool idea. And I think that the fact that the signs were handmade made them more eye-catching and believable – they actually reminded me of the handmade signs at Trader Joe’s. Like other people have mentioned, I think this is a critical issue that not many people are aware of. It speaks to the greater phenomenon of globalization, and it’s easy to pick out both good and bad things about the fact that people, ideas, objects, and food are able to travel around the world. I’m from Minnesota and if I only bought locally grown food, I wouldn’t hardly be able to eat fruit during the winter (and would have probably died of scurvy) but on the other hand, Minnesota is also home to tons of farmers and I feel the need to support their efforts. Whether or not students choose to eat locally, I think it’s important that at least they are aware of whether or not they’re doing so, so a project like yours does a great job in that respect. It would be awesome if grocery stores displayed this sort of information. Maybe one day…

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  7. taa59 April 1, 2015 / 3:14 pm

    I absolutely loved your project! I do not eat a lot of meat, so my everyday diet is composed of mostly fruits and vegetables and this is something that I have not really thought of. If you were able to leave these signs up anywhere for at least a day I think that a lot of people would be extremely surprised at how far food travels to get to our tables. This is something that we take for granted for sure. Just the ability to g to the store and buy something that has traveled thousands of miles to get to us. We have a huge garden at my house so we grow a lot of our vegetables and some fruits, but still purchase a lot and I know most people do not grow anything themselves.

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  8. njbabyak April 3, 2015 / 10:55 am

    I really liked this project. We all eat food everyday but never consider how far it had to travel to get to us. My wife and I are not vegetarians, but we do avoid meat and with that being said, we eat lots of fruit and vegetables. I can honestly say that I never wondered where they came from. I really wish you had been able to leave your signs up. I don’t think that people would stop eating fruit, but they may be more inclined to support local agriculture by purchasing US grown fruit and veggies that wont have to travel as far to get to them.

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