Intriguing New Food Atlas Looking for Kickstarter Funding

Map slices from the book: Los Angeles' lost agrarian landscape, West Oakland's City Slicker Farms' backyard garden program, California's world almond trade, US farmers' markets and food stamp access, SF Bay Area potential food resiliency.
Remember those rad children's atlases that had cartoonish representations of the major exports of every region around the world, kinda like the map mural at Kate's Kitchen? Well, get excited: a group of Berkeley cartographers and more than 80 volunteers around the globe have banded together to create the grownup version. Food: An Atlas will be a visual representation of food systems around the world, with more than 60 maps covering everything from the United States "beershed" (where our beer ingredients come from) to the global distribution of California almonds. The crowdsourced project is one of the first of its kind. And it needs your help, via Kickstarter, to become a reality.

See also:
- How Christopher Columbus Changed the Way We Eat
- New Cookbook Explores California's Culinary Past
- The 20 Most Significant Food Inventions in History

The "Guerrilla Cartographers" behind the project need $20,000 by Tuesday, Oct. 23 to fund the local printing and distribution of the final product. A $10 donation will get you the ebook and a mention on the collaborators' map inside; give $25 and receive a copy of your very own when it's done in December. (Christmas present, anyone?)

Food: An Atlas is the baby of Darin Jensen, Geography Lecturer and Director of the CAGE Lab at University of California, Berkeley. You might know him from other map projects such as Mission Possible, the local cartography project a few months back that contained, among other things, that map of gangs and cupcake shops that made its way around the Internet.

Creating a food atlas had always been a dream of Jensen's, but he knew he couldn't make 60 or 100 maps by himself and decided to crowdsource it. "I learned so much from doing Mission Possible, mainly that people will work in collaboration to make something creative happen," he says. So he recruited former student Molly Roy as co-editor, and put out a general call for food maps from geography departments and food policy organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

Cover art by Querido Galdo
The maps came pouring in, so many that Jensen and Roy developed an editorial advisory panel of academics, food writers, data visualizers, and other locals to help them vet submissions for accuracy and to make sure the logic held up under scrutiny.

"One thing that's amazing about maps is a good and bad thing at the same time ... their authority. People will see [something] on maps and they'll believe it. There are so many ways to manipulate data and make maps indicate your bias. We try really hard to avoid that," Jensen says.

The money from Kickstarter will go toward funding the printing and distribution of the first 1,000 copies of the atlas -- the more money donated, the more copies the team can print. Any proceeds from sales of the maps will go to a food charity to be determined by Jensen, Roy, and all the collaborators involved.

Because most of the team calls the Bay Area home, several of the maps are local to California: a survey of Oakland's taco trucks, a map of L.A. County's lost agrarian landscape, a snapshot of urban agriculture projects in San Francisco. But there are also dozens of international and global maps covering everything from the rise of food banks in the UK to the redistribution of food surpluses in Italy.

And the implications of all the maps go beyond the local, says Jensen -- for example, the map of Oakland taco trucks reveals truths about street food in general, too. "Cartography is a communicating device." he says. "This project will enlighten us on all humankind's relationship to food by telling these stories."

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Great project! Check out the video and help make it happen.

Dan Kane
Dan Kane

I'm getting the atlas AND going on a taco truck tour! Wanna join us?!?

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