Bringing Home Local

I’m psyched to share with you guys that I’ve been selected to be a featured blogger for the Boston Local Food Festival. If you don’t have plans yet for September 20th, you do now! As described on the event website, the day consists of an “outdoor festival that showcases farmers, local restaurants, food trucks, specialty food producers, fisher folks, and organizations focusing on healthy food and fitness from New England”. Yes, please. In case you need further convincing: 

Participating in events like this one, it’s really easy to feel excited about buying locally and making sustainable choices. When the options are plentiful and the reward is (literally) so sweet and delicious, most of us love to make the choice that’s better for us and better for our environment. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, the difficulty lies in translating that energy into changing everyday habits. It’s not that I don’t want to always make the better choice, but more that I’m established in the choices that are comfortable to me. Convenience is so often king when it comes to where and what we buy ourselves.

And food festivals like the Boston Local Food Festival typically exist in space all their own. It’s easy to treat this as a fun one-time event where we eat awesome food, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We might even learn a lot while we’re there - but it’s hard to translate those lessons to your everyday life. Why isn't that awesome, locally-sourced food truck parked outside my house all the time? 

Some enterprising folks have connected these dots, identified this need and are working to come up with solutions that make the healthy, sustainable choice the easy choice not only at the food festival, but when we return home as well. Tech can be used for more than pictures of cats and selfies (not that these aren’t worthwhile pastimes). MyMilkcrate is an example of a company trying to use tech to make sustainable choices the easier choices for all of us. Like a sustainable, local version of the “Yelp” app in your phone, MyMilkcrate partners with food retailers, dining, services, health and wellness, home and office, and community resources to create an online database of pre-vetted businesses. Consumers no longer need to do this research themselves to purchase responsibly, and have convenient access to these listings in a map-based phone app.

Something that I spend a lot of time thinking about is how the spirit of “tech”, the energy that surrounds the startup world can be applied to solve health problems. The “food system” is a massive, amorphous blob in my mind - difficult to conceptualize, impossible to control. And a lot of attempts at community health interventions are clunky, slow, institutional, grant-funded beasts themselves. Not to dismiss this work. It is often well planned, meaningful, and something I’m certainly a part of - but watching tech-based startups get creative, take risks and (sometimes) see great success makes me wonder how this same model might be applied to solve health-related issues.

MyMilkcrate creators seem to have had a similar thought process. While the app isn’t fully built-out for Boston yet, it does feature local businesses on the Cambridge side of the river. Users are encouraged and rewarded for living more sustainably. They have access to better information about the transparency of practices and standards of the businesses in their neighborhoods and are empowered to make healthier choices for themselves and the environment. I’m looking forward to MyMilkcrate as a phone-based platform to experience the Boston Local Food Festival before and during the event. Most importantly, I hope to see MyMilkcrate enabling visitors to take the same mindset and consumer practices home with them after Sunday, September 20th.