Food is an integral part of human society. We cultivate food, we talk about food, we cook food – and we ultimately eat food to survive.
It is the very sustenance that keeps our bodies able and our minds awake. Then why is there such a disconnect between our highly processed, manufactured “foods” and the original foods we use to engineer these newfound edibles? Are we consciously aware of what we’re eating? How does what we eat affect the lives of our families, our neighbors, and communities hundreds of miles away? Why should we care about food?
Project update: January 2017
Lessons learned from the project
When I began this project on World Food Day (October 16) 2015, I had high hopes.
As someone who has struggled with anorexia and disordered eating habits for over 7 years, I think about food all the time: How our food is grown, where it’s grown, what’s really in the ‘food’ that so often comes in packages and platters and wrappers.
I wanted the Planet & Plate site to accentuate this overflowing interest I have in food. Ideas about food-related book reviews and article recaps and an interactive map on the origins of food production churned in my head like a thick, boiling pot of soup.
Then, I sunk back in the reality of my sophomore semester.
I’m only a college student, and while that might seem like a cop-out excuse to make, I have to be honest with my available time and energies at this point in my life. Planet & Plate was meant to be a passion project, something on the side, an interesting slice of the Internet I would look forward to contributing after long days of PDF-reading and syllabus-slaving.
A few months of updating and idea-generating went by, and suddenly I became confused. Confused about what, why, and how much the site would be used.
What kind of food-related content would I produce — or would I curate the content? What is the purpose, the focus, the intended audience, and the mission of the project?
In my haste to carve out a space in the foodie community, I soon realized how incredibly multifaceted the term ‘food studies’ is. Was I focusing on agriculture — and all the pesticide-related controversies that abound in Big Ag news? Was I highlighting stories that only had to do with humans and food, or could soil microbes have a spotlight, too? What about food waste and its associated impact on global greenhouse gas emissions?
My self-ascribed tagline for Planet & Plate — “observations of food and culture” — didn’t help me much in narrowing this focus. Another lesson I learned for passion projects in the future: Have a streamlined plan and unique niche when it comes to implementing ideas. Otherwise, the risk of stepping on other organizations’ toes (Nat Geo Food) or getting lost in the muck of content creation inhibits project progress.
Undeniably, interest in food studies is growing — and rightly so. A significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture and associated land use is a problem that’s not going away anytime soon, thanks to our booming world population (7 billion and counting).
And that’s exciting, as someone who seeks to learn more about the broken food and agriculture industry and help move it forward with positive change. Food is always going to be a necessity for human — as well as all animal — life, so it’s high-time we set up a sustainable food system to match.
But why now?
Why this project, of all things to focus on? I couldn’t answer the question very soundly, to tell the truth. I didn’t have an objective or deadline or conference showcase to prepare for. I was simply starting an ambiguous archive that suddenly felt like Nemo swimming in the big, blue ocean.
I was in over my head trying to tease out the purpose of this project. Meanwhile, a back-log of articles and research on recent food studies news crowded the corners of my Internet space. I simply didn’t have enough time to cultivate a healthy, robust serving of food studies reading material (of too many kinds!) for another audience other than myself.
That’s why the project lasted for as little as 12 months (or less, if I’m being honest).
I hope this site has served as proof for my insatiable desire to do something in the food and agriculture creative space. I haven’t quite figured out what that something is just yet.
This post also appear on Planet & Plate