Lifestyle Journalist

M. Astella Saw writes about travel, food, retail, design and trends in the lifestyle sectors. Contact me at m.astella.saw (at)

Foodprint Project

You are what you eat, they say, but Sarah Rich and Nicola Twilley, founders of the Foodprint Project, have another proposition on the plate. For these two writers, you live what you eat, and you eat what you live.

This idea – that food and cities give shape to each other – is at the core of the multi-city series of events that considers such topics as the future of urban agriculture and the mapping of food supply chains. Here, policy makers, culinary historians, retailers, designers and scientists examine, as Rich and Twilley put it, ‘the hidden corsetry that gives shape to urban foodscapes’.

‘We wanted to use our design and urbanism interest as a lens to look at food – to create a greater focal point in thinking about the social, community-related, anthropological and architectural structures of the city, and how those things play into what food is like in a city,’ Rich says.

The project is rich in influences and inspirations. At the first event, in New York, anti-hunger campaigner Joel Berg and convenience store supplier Stanley Fleishman debated how policy and economics shape a city’s food systems. David Haskell, founder of hyperlocal micro-distillery Kings County Distillery, took part in a panel on Culinary Cartography. Architect Amale Andraos, who worked on the Edible Schoolyard garden and kitchen classroom project, and MIT designer Marcelo Coelho, who created a 3D food printer, discussed New York’s food futures.

More than 400 people attended Foodprint New York, far exceeding its hosts’ expectations. On 31 July, Foodprint Toronto attendees will continue discussing the themes first raised at the February event. The goal, Rich and Twilley say, is to curate the same themed panels in different cities in order to create a sense of convergences between our urban spaces. With this information, we may begin to identify workable solutions for future cities.

‘So much of the future of civilisation has to do with the future of cities,’ Rich says. ‘More people are living in cities – how is that going to affect how we eat?’

Our top five take-outs

1: Food brings everyone to the table. For instance, growing-your-own and urban farming ‘unite a lot of different forces that are going on in food right now’, Twilley says. Consider how a food-based approach could rally your customers.

2: Go beyond the surface and dig deep. ‘There’s sort of a cult around pulling a carrot out of the ground with your own hands and brushing the organic dirt off it,’ Twilley says. ‘We want to move beyond that in our conversations.’

3: Enable a coordinated effort. ‘I think there’s a lot that isn’t thought through by the local food movement and there’s a lot that isn’t thought through by the techno future-food people,’ Twilley says. ‘There’s several separate futures being planned, and they don’t really converge.’

4: Let many voices speak. ‘We deliberately go out of our way to not just have activists, to not just have designers, or food scientists or urban planners or food business people, but to have as diverse a mix of all those people as we can,’ Twilley says. ‘We want to bring all those different interests together.’

5: Start small. ‘There’s a lot of interest in scale right now – looking at lots of little ideas that work really well, and seeing if there’s a way to make those work on a larger scale,’ Twilley says. Foodprint’s city-specific events will help identify individual schemes that may inform national or even international solutions.

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03 August 2010