U.S. Map + Haha + Yum = Foodnited States of America
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
What can I say? Horrible puns, crafty maps and gorgeous food presentations...how could I not share this? You can follow the progress of this on-going project as they add more beautifully silly food map puns to their series under the hashtag #foodnitedstates on Foodiggity's Instagram account.
"Food. It’s something we all think about, talk about, and need. Food has been one major topic of interest at National Geographic because it connects all of us to our environment. The recent global population projections for the year 2100 just went up from 9 billion to 11 billion, making the issues of food production and distribution all the more important. For the last 3 years I’ve stored podcasts, articles, videos, and other resources on my personal site on a wide range of geographic issues, including food resources. I thought that sharing 10 of my personal favorite resources on the geography of food would be helpful to understand our changing global food systems."
This 12 question quiz is a great way to introduce students to spatial patterns of agricultural products in the United States. Sometimes just knowing regional stereotypes can be helpful, but being able to make an educated guess about where an agricultural product is comes from requires a basic understanding of economic and climate patterns. This quiz is a good way to test that knowledge and introduce them to these spatial patterns.
There really are two different Americas: the heartland, and the coasts....
These maps together show that most of the grain from the American breadbasket does not directly on the table but into the feed trough. I imagined before I saw this data that the percentage of animal feed in the Midwest would be higher than the rest of the United States, but I would not have guessed that it was that high.
Scallops pulled out of the waters off the western coast of France are taken on an incredible journey that sees them shipped off to China to be cleaned, before being sent all the way back to France to be cooked up. Producers say its worth the cost.
This type of nonsense only makes sense in a world where the bottom dollar is the only way to way to evaluate decisions. However, resource conservation (think of the food miles!), fair labor prices, and the preservation of local cultural economies are certainly issues that should be considered.
"Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.
American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers. But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship."
This is a hard read, but it is important to understand that there is a dark underbelly to many of the economic systems that are reshaping the world today. Sometimes we ask all the wrong questions, like "why is organic, local, or fair trade food so expensive?" We should really be asking why the other options are so cheap.
This, unfortunately is part of the answer. The video above is a snippet from a 4-part series (I-camps, II-labor, III-Company Stores , IV-Child Labor) from the LA Times that has excellent pictures, videos, and interviews highlighting the working conditions of farm workers in Mexico. For an audio version, here is an NPR podcast interviewing Richard Marosi, the investigator behind the story.
Conflict Kitchen is an art project based in the centre of Pittsburgh which serves food from countries with which the US is 'in conflict'. The founders get to define what conflict means - it can range from outright war to economic sanctions - and since opening in 2010 they have prepared food from Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. But the restaurant's latest choice of cuisine, Palestinian food, has caused controversy in the city and even led to a death threat which temporarily closed the venue. Critics pointed out that the US is not in conflict with the Palestinian people. They claimed that the pamphlets served with the dishes included 'anti-Israel' propaganda. But Conflict Kitchen's founders said the project was designed to encourage debate among Americans."
Questions to Ponder: What do you think the purpose of Conflict Kitchen is for the restaurant owners? Many people choose restaurants for a cultural experience; what type of cultural experiences are these patrons searching for by eating at Conflict Kitchen? What political overtones are there to these cultural encounters? Is this a form of 'gastro-diplomacy?'
Gathered around the Thanksgiving table, Americans tell stories about colonists and Native Americans coming together. But do Native Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving? And what would Native American heritage food look like? This November, With Good Reason takes a look at the indigenous side of a Thanksgiving table.
Corn, watermelon, and peaches were unrecognizable 8,000 years ago.
I think the term 'artificial' in the image might be misleading and it depends on your definition of the word. Humans have been selectively breed plants and animals for as long as we've been able to domestic them; that is a 'natural' part of our cultural ecology and has lead to great varieties of crops that are much more suitable for human consumption than what was naturally available. Long before climate change, humans have been actively shaping their environment and the ecological inputs in the systems with the technology that their disposal. This is a good resource to teach about the 1st agricultural revolution.
Just how much of the world's cropland can we really call urban? That's been a big mystery until now.
Now, a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has an answer: Somewhere around 1.1 billion acres is being cultivated for food in or within about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of cities. Most of that land is on the periphery of cities, but 16.6 percent of these urban farms are in open spaces within the municipal core.
Think the McDonald's Menu is the same everywhere? Think again. A fantastic geography teacher compiled these images and descriptions of the McDonald's menu from around the world and put them into an ESRI storymap. This interactive feature shows how a successful global brand like McDonald's should be keenly aware of local tastes and customs. Some call that "glocalization."
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tristram Stuart wants the world to stop throwing away so much good food.
No one should be surprised that more developed societies are more wasteful societies. It is not just personal wasting of food at the house and restaurants that are the problem. Perfectly edible food is thrown out due to size (smaller than standards but perfectly normal), cosmetics (Bananas that are shaped 'funny') and costumer preference (discarded bread crust). This is an intriguing perceptive on our consumptive culture, but it also is helpful in framing issues such as sustainability and human and environmental interactions in a technologically advanced societies that are often removed form the land where the food they eat originates. You can hear more about Tristram's work in this TED talk.
Many advocates of local foods favor a small-scale approach to farming and are opposed to large-scale agribusiness. It might be easy for those disconnected from the food production system (like me) to romanticize and mythologize the farmers of yesteryear and yearn to return to this past. This talk highlights how essential large-scale farming is absolutely critical to feeding the global population; this other TED talk discusses many of the hunger problems especially the uneven access to food. Here are some other pro-agribusiness resources.
"By 2050, the world's population will likely increase 35 percent. But is growing more food the only option—or even the best? National Geographic investigates the challenges and solutions to feeding everyone on our planet, based on an eight-month series in National Geographic magazine. Visit http://natgeofood.com for ongoing coverage of food issues as we investigate the Future of Food today on World Food Day."
"Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. See other videos on this organization here."
There has been a revitalization in urban gardening as many city dwellers feel disconnected from their food systems; urban gardening is a way for people to actively control what they are ingesting into their systems many fear some of the modern agricultural methods. Based in Milwaukee, WI, Growing Power has created an interesting combination of vegetable gardening and aquaponics for the urban environment.
"For at least 70 years, the Red Delicious has dominated apple production in the United States. But since the turn of the 21st century, as the market has filled with competitors—the Gala, the Fuji, the Honeycrisp—its lead has been narrowing. Annual output has plunged."
The story of the Red Delicious is almost a perfect analogy for the food industry. It was genetically selected for its marketable skin, an aesthetically sumptuous red. The skin of the Red Delicious better covers bruises than other varieties and tastes more bitter. Consumers were buying what the industry promoted and “eating with their eyes and not their mouths.” But recently there has been a backlash in the United States and more American consumer are seeking out other varieties; meanwhile the apple producers are working on exporting this variety to around the world, but especially into Chinese markets.
"Berlin Bureau Chief Michael Slackman looks into the obsession with currywurst, a popular street dish that combines sausage, ketchup and curry powder, and brings different Berliners together."
This short video has been added to the the interactive map, Place-Based Geography Videos. This depiction of street foods in German cities is a rich, tangible example to show cultural patterns and processes. Currywurst is a unifying force across socioeconomic classes in Germany, but it is also a product of globalization and cultural interactions across regions. Culture is not static and this New York Times video can be used to teach the various concepts of culture; per the updated APHG outline, the initial concepts of culture are:
Question to Ponder: How are these 5 major elements of culture seen in this video?
In many countries, eggs aren't refrigerated and they're still considered safe to eat. But in the U.S., we have to chill them, because we've washed away the cuticle that protects them from bacteria.
For many Americans that are traveling abroad for the first time, realizing that eggs aren't in the refrigerator is a bit of a culture shock (not to mention the moment they find milk in a box that also isn't being refrigerated). Agricultural practices dictate storage requirements and some things we might have imagined were universal are actually place-specific or peculiar to our cultural setting. What we are taught to think of as gross, appropriate, attractive or even sanitary is often steeped in a cultural context. So is it strange the we refrigerate our eggs in the United States, or that they don't in other places?
"While people often say that borders aren’t visible from space, the line between Kazakhstan and China could not be more clear in this satellite image. Acquired by the Landsat 8 satellite on September 9, 2013, the image shows northwestern China around the city of Qoqek and far eastern Kazakhstan near Lake Balqash.
The border between the two countries is defined by land-use policies. In China, land use is intense. Only 11.62 percent of China’s land is arable. Pressed by a need to produce food for 1.3 billion people, China farms just about any land that can be sustained for agriculture. Fields are dark green in contrast to the surrounding arid landscape, a sign that the agriculture is irrigated. As of 2006, about 65 percent of China’s fresh water was used for agriculture, irrigating 629,000 square kilometers (243,000 square miles) of farmland, an area slightly smaller than the state of Texas.
The story is quite different in Kazakhstan. Here, large industrial-sized farms dominate, an artifact of Soviet-era agriculture. While agriculture is an important sector in the Kazakh economy, eastern Kazakhstan is a minor growing area. Only 0.03 percent of Kazakhstan’s land is devoted to permanent agriculture, with 20,660 square kilometers being irrigated. The land along the Chinese border is minimally used, though rectangular shapes show that farming does occur in the region. Much of the agriculture in this region is rain-fed, so the fields are tan much like the surrounding natural landscape."
"One-third of the seafood Americans catch is sold abroad, but most of the seafood we eat here is imported and often of lower quality. Why? Author Paul Greenberg says it has to do with American tastes."
The United States exports the best-quality seafood that Americans catch, but import primarily low-grade aquacultural products. This is just one of the counter-intuitive issues withe U.S. fish consumption and production. This bizarre dynamic has cultural and economic explanations and this NPR podcast nicely explains these spatial patterns that are bound to frustrate those that advocate for locally sourced food productions.
"With seven billion people now living on Earth, the ever growing demand is putting unprecedented pressure on global resources—especially forests, water, and food. How can Earth’s resources be managed best to support so many people? One key is tracking the sum of what is available, and perhaps nothing is better suited to that task than satellites."
Agricultural production is one of the ways in which people modify the environment more than any other. Global population is expected to top out at around 9 billion around 2050, so will we be able to sustainably feed all of the entire human population? Satellite imagery can help answer these questions.
"The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves, wrote the French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826. Almost 200 years later, how nations feed themselves has gotten a lot more complicated. That’s particularly true in the US, where food insecurity coexists with an obesity crisis, where fast food is everywhere and farmer’s markets are spreading, where foodies have never had more power and McDonald’s has never had more locations, and where the possibility of a barbecue-based civil war is always near. So here are 40 maps, charts, and graphs that show where our food comes from and how we eat it, with some drinking thrown in for good measure."
Occasionally these lists that say something like "40 maps that..." end up being an odd assortment of trivia that is interesting but not very instructive. Not so with this list that has carefully curated these maps and graphs in a sequential order that will enrich students' understanding of food production and consumption in the United States. Additionally, here are some maps and chart to understand agriculture and food in Canada.