Meet the Food Open Data Challenge Champion
For the last five years I’ve been investigating people’s food habits. I’m interested in the impact these habits have on their personal health and happiness. Beyond this I’m convinced that strategic changes to our food system can achieve much social and environmental good.
One of my main projects, the Secret Seed Society, advocates the hands-on experience of growing your own food from seed, cooking it and eating it as a fantastic developmental activity for children. It's rich with emotions and rewards. I want to put seeds in children’s hands and let them fall in love with vegetables and eat healthily as a result - to learn more about the project, watch my TEDx talk at LSE.
As the Challenge Champion, I’m excited to be supporting the participants in the Food Open Data Challenge. There is much opportunity to do food better and I look forward to helping some new ideas to be developed over the next three months.
Challenge question definition day
Another sweltering summer’s afternoon and 25 of us took our seats at the Food Challenge Question Definition Workshop. With a show of hands we get an idea of why people are here: five are already keen to participate in the challenge, five are food experts and ten represent organisations they believe will open up their data, wow! There was a lot of enthusiasm, and when we were asked “Who’s not sure what part they’ll play in the challenge?” many people raised their hands. This was a good sign, people are curious and had attended to find out more.
A good challenge question is one for which solutions can be created using at least one Open Dataset from a government source.
The day was all about having a look at the data available around food and seeing where an overlap exists with the key social challenges.
Our first exercise was to map the data sets that have been identified by the ODI as potential resources on to a matrix. The matrix plots the social issues against the making, selling, consuming sectors of the food system. I’d seen the data before and was interested to hear people’s thoughts on how this matrix populates.
“There’s hardly anything on the consumer side?!”
Yes, most of these initial datasets are caught in the cowsheds, abattoirs and fisheries of the UK. Hopefully this challenge will spur on more organisations to open up their data. And if you are now scratching your head unconvinced you know what Open Data is or you would like to open up your data, email [email protected] and watch out for our forthcoming blog on datasets for the Open Data Challenge Series.
“Where is the international data, this is an international food system?”
It is an international food system, but this challenge is a collaboration between the ODI and NESTA, and to win the competition participants must quantify their social impact in the UK. Impacts beyond the UK are a bonus and in such an intertwined system it is probably impossible to avoid. These datasets are just a starting point - many solutions from past challenges combine datasets, some Open Data with some private, behavioural and user-created data. Here’s the data sets that we looked through.
The Food Open Data Challenge is a fantastic way to use the creativity and experience of the food sector and the data community to deliver real change for people who deserve a better deal.
We will announce the Food Open Data Challenge question via social media on the 21 August 2014, along with instructions on how to compete for the £40,000 prize.
Photo Credit: ilovebutter @ Flickr CC