Eating is a communal act that connects us to one another. Each of us grew up with different food traditions that link us to our families and cultural identities. But we also enjoy other cuisines that connect us to our neighbors, communities, and even other parts of the world. Eating also connects us to the land and to nature.
In Chicagoland—a metropolitan region of over 9 million people—there is a great variety of stores where food is bought and sold. Food from around the world is available in large supermarkets and small international grocery stores. Farmers markets still provide seasonal foods from the surrounding region, but this is a very small percentage of the food that Chicagoans eat.
Chicago is tied to global food markets and much of our food is imported from other regions. This is made possible by modern transportation that quickly ships food from all parts of the world. Modern transportation allows us to enjoy a great variety of foods year-round. Food is shipped around the world by a variety of transportation options including freight trains, semi-trucks, cargo ships, and airplanes. Those modes of transportation help provide access to food but they can also impact our environment.
Humans have always “battled nature” when it comes to food preservation: slowing down the natural processes of spoilage. Over time, we’ve developed technologies that alter natural processes and preserve food longer. Improved packaging, processing, and preservation techniques now give foods a longer shelf life and allow us to feed millions of people efficiently. Freezing, fermentation, pickling, canning, and adding preservatives have all helped different types of food last longer.
Most of us take food for granted and don’t necessarily think about how it arrives from land to table. The next time you sit down to a meal, practice being more mindful of your food source. Click the button below to to download our table to track what food you’re eating, where it came from, where you bought it, and how it’s preserved.