Saturday, November 6, 2010

Food Tracking – Lessons Learned

Back in August I posted a blog called What is Local? Following is what I tracked for the month of July 2010: percent of Michigan fresh foods compared to all fresh food purchased (87%), percent of Michigan processed foods compared to all processed food purchased: (66%), percent of total Michigan foods compared to all food purchased (81%), and percent of sustainable foods compared to all food purchased (88%).

Here is what I have learned from tracking my food purchases for a few months:
- I sure go to the grocery store and farmers market often! That makes the task rather tedious. I shop regularly at a few neighborhood stores and once or twice per week at the farmers market.
- Although we have two major cereal manufacturers in Michigan, neither make the oat based cereals that my husband and I prefer.
- Breakfast was the hardest to find in Michigan products. Although I eat bread, granola, or eggs often; coffee, orange juice, and organic yogurt are not generally Michigan products. And, see above.
- I need to look more closely at the foods that I termed “sustainable” (Amish, organic & fair trade) to really understand if they are sustainable. Thanks to Michael Pollan for making me question everything!
- Certain foods that I consider sustainable are not necessary healthy and are often quite processed – even if I purchase them from a health food store.
- I also found that we have a lot of Michigan produced food. After all, we are second only to California for the variety of items that we can grow here. When the farmers market was full on, the only fresh produce that I needed to purchase were mushrooms and lemons.
- And, I slowly learned more and more about local processed foods. I found burrito wraps in Saline and whole wheat flour in Nashville. I met a hops farmer and a Native American Tribe harvesting wild rice. What an awesome summer!

And, the biggest lesson? Well, that was to back up my computer often when I am working with a large spreadsheet of detailed data. About a month ago my laptop hard drive stopped working. I had two IT experts work with it –it was officially declared dead yesterday. So you see I cannot give you my first quarter of food tracking data as I’d planned. And, I have decided that I will not start the year over. My plan is to track my food purchases for the month of January 2011, six months after the first data that I wrote about - and the dead of winter. We will see how it compares.

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