How Cities Shaped Food

I: Sustainability

How do broccoli get to Times Square?

Or in other words, how do you feed a big city, making sure millions of people get fed every day with fresh food?

Just like babies don’t come from under cabbage leaves, cabbages aren’t born from pavements. We’re so accustomed to seeing shops full of all the food we want, that it’s easy to forget how it got there. The truth is, the effort behind it is pretty impressive, and it will be even more so by 2050, when the size of people living in cities will be twice as many as the current one.

So here’s a TED Talk about the logistics of feeding a city, and how (at least until the Industrial Revolution), food supply had a direct influence on how cities were shaped.

II: Where food is going

They grow so fast, don’t they?

If you’re looking for new GM food controversies, how about genetically modified salmon? Now we have it, and it will grow faster than Nature intended, with the same nutritional properties and no risk for humans, or so the authorities say.

Last November it was approved by the FDA, but just when you thought the USA would be the first ones to sell it, they were beaten by Canada.

III: The food we eat

The FDA is finally catching up with the world

Of all the controversies surrounding the food we eat, you would at least expect a general agreement on what “healthy” means.

Well, not so fast.

A few months ago, a producer of nut bars received a warning letter from the FDA, where they were asked to remove the word “healthy” from their almond bars. The problem is, FDA’s current definition of “healthy” is “low in sodium and fat,” with no mention of sugars.

So, almonds and nuts in general are not healthy, and neither are sardines or avocados. What about fortified cereals, with lots of added sugar? Yes sir, as healthy as it gets.

The FDA realised how embarrassingly outdated their definition is, and they’ve now decided to find a new one. Good luck with that.

No, exercise won’t make you lose weight

How many times did we say (or hear say): I want to lose weight, I need to join a gym?

Exercising has many benefits, but losing weight unfortunately is not one of them: that is a myth, and always has been. This article explains it very well.

Have you seen The Kalespiracy documentary?

Making fun of vegans and meat eaters at the same time? This is how it’s done:

IV: Technology

Making counting calories a thing of the past

One of the main problems with obesity is that people are often not aware they’re overeating. You can call it the failure of the “everything in moderation” principle. Moderation means something different for everyone, so it ends up being meaningless.

One way to make what we eat more objective would be to count calories. The problem with that, though, is that it’s a giant pain the neck, and all the apps available world won’t make it any less so. Also, in most cases the calculation is so approximate it can be misleading.

No wonder then, that researchers are trying to find a way to know exactly how many calories we eat without weighing our food and constantly taking note of what we eat.

In a past issue, I mentioned an app that scans food in real time, but someone took a different approach: capturing the sound you make while you’re chewing, and recognising the food you’re eating.

Weirdly impossible or genius?

V: Food waste

Do strawberries grow in supermarkets?

No, son, actually they fly, ready to embrace their destiny.

Here’s a short video about the journey of an uneaten strawberry, from the field to its death by garbage bin.