The quest for a healthy diet has been around since longer than we can remember, but recently, we’ve begun worrying about where our meals come from, too: The growing evidence that meat-heavy diets are bad for the environment is at least partially responsible for vegetarianism’s recent surge in popularity, and plenty of restaurants are capitalizing on the concept of “farm-to-table,” locally sourced food. Unfortunately, eating local is near-impossible if you don’t live on the homestead and spend hours researching and cooking your food (and it’s not easy, even if you do). Thankfully, Food Sprout is here to help: The new website compiles data to map the food supply chain, giving consumers a chance to see how sustainable restaurants, food manufacturers, and suppliers really are.
Food Sprout’s staff compiles data provided by third-party organizations, government agencies, food databases, and their own investigative reporting and to try and quantify how sustainable various businesses and foods really are. Of course, while posting nutrition facts has become de rigeur for many chain restaurants, posting their food sources is not. Food Sprout is aiming to organize existing information for better transparency, but finding the information and organizing it into a comprehensible evaluation is difficult: “The more we dive into the data, and the more we build out features the more the problem reveals its complexity. The challenge is to simplify the data to help solve the problem and give businesses or consumers a quick score or “thumbs-up/down” for a particular food/method. Of course getting data from a big company like Subway is a lot like pulling teeth, only 10 times more painful and has also been a big challenge,” the company’s founder, Ander Naber, told Food + Tech Connect‘s Danielle Gould.
For now, users can use the site to track sustainability of products sold in grocery stores, various food producers and farmers’ markets, and restaurants in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, Los Angeles, and New York.