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Laser-Etched Produce Brings Food Access Issues To The Table

An MIT researcher carved some cucumbers into data visualizations in an effort to raise awareness in Somerville, MA about food.

We've dabbled with our fair share of fair trade grub, but we've never been fortunate enough to munch on some laser-etched produce. Rahul Bhargava, a research specialist from MIT, could change that, however, as he's carving crops to raise awareness about food access in a collaborative project with the Somerville Food Security Coalition.

Using a literal laser, the researcher is etching, well, hard-to-swallow facts on to watermelon, zucchini, and other produce. The data viz veggies were then brought to the Somerville Arts Council’s 2014 Ignite Festival, in an effort to see local reactions to the food-related facts. 

“I buy what I need first," notes one cucumber. "If I have some extra money I get some fruits and vegetables” and “70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch” state other fruits and vegetables, bringing ethical issues to the attention of local residents in a fresh manner. 

Bhargava explained the project's goal: 

“In public settings, it can be quite hard to get folks walking by interested in a data-driven argument about your cause. We often argue that a creative data sculpture can grab their attention… like maybe a vegetable laser cut with some data about food security!”

See some pictures of the inscribed food below:

More information on Bhargava’s food awareness project can be found on the MIT Center for Civic Media website.

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