Food on the Web
Stats rarely tell the whole story. But for some, me in particular, they can be an interesting way of telling at least a part of the story. And when there are websites that will generate these stats for you, it’s even better. This is the story of what I learned from Google Trends, a website from the world’s searching powerhouse, that analyzes how often particular words have been searched, how this has changed over time, and where searches are coming from.
I started my search with an examination of the three “pillars” of MAFRA: local food, food security, and food sovereignty. Alas, it appears that food sovereignty is not searched all that often, at least not often enough to make it onto the radar of Google Trends (remember, that this cuts out anyone not searching for these terms in English).
A quick look at the term food security over the past six or seven years, shows a lot of interest in the term in 2004 and 2005, followed by a significant decline in 2006 and 2007 and a resurgence from 2008 to 2010. However, as the bottom graph indicates, food security was gradually referenced more in news articles, peaking sharply during food crises in 2009. This, in and of itself, isn’t all that interesting. But what is perhaps more interesting, is where these searches are coming from. Calculated as a percentage of overall searches coming from a country (or city), it is not perhaps surprising that the highest rate of searching “food security” came from countries dealing with signficant hunger issues. The top countries were Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Interestingly, Canada was the only country outside the global South in the top 10. The story is similar at a city-by-city level. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia leads the way. But here too, Canada does better than most western nations. Although Washington DC leads the way in the global North (in 6th), Ottawa (7th) is not far behind, and is folloewd by Vancouver (8th), and Toronto (10th).
Local food is a different story. While the pattern on the food security graph could be described as a valley – an early and late high with a low in the middle – local food seems to be on a pretty much steady rise. Not surprisingly, western countries do much better at local food. Interestingly, however, they are not the best. Singapore leads the way by a large margin, followed by Malaysia. They are followed by the United Kingdom, US, and Canada. At a municipal level, American cities do very well. After Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Boston and Philadelphia round out places 3 to 6. The top Canadian city, Toronto, is tenth in the world.
What about our key term – food justice? Turns out that food justice is primarily a term used in the western world. The United States leads the way, followed by Canada, Australia, India, and the UK. When you break it down by city, the top ten are all American – led by, go figure, Denver, Colorado.
A few web statistics do not tell the whole story of the world of food and alternative food systems. But it is interesting to see where the interest lies, to know who is talking about what, and the presence of a just food system online.