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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Museum Exhibit Explores Sustainable Food Production

Maria Cramer logged the contents of her dinner – chicken, broccoli and a potato – into a new app in the exhibit Food By Design: Sustaining the Future at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). She was then shocked to find that it translated to a carbon footprint 1,449 miles long.

Cramer is curator of connectivity at MODA, and the app she used does not count calories – it estimates carbon impact. She learned that if she ate the same thing every day for a year, it would produce roughly the same carbon footprint as driving from New York to Kansas in an automobile.

While some parts of the exhibit are quite sobering, the overall sense visitors are likely to leave with is that of hope, because thousands of concerned and creative people are “hacking” tiny pieces of the global system of food production and distribution to make it more healthful, responsive and sustainable. The mission of MODA is to demonstrate how design produces positive change in the world.

“We talk with patrons all the time,” enthuses MODA executive director and exhibit curator Laura Flusche. “We ask about their day, and we noticed just how much Atlantans talk about food; what they just ate or what they are going to eat. That’s when the light bulb went off.”

Flusche explains that given the enormous and entrenched nature of our food system, no one was going to sit down and redesign it from the ground up: “That would be impossible,” she notes The exhibit centers on numerous innovations that cut across multiple spheres of biology, technology, social organization and perhaps even fashion.

With the urban environment as its focus, what we may notice missing from the exhibit is any mention of current methods of mass food production. Instead, museum patrons are introduced to large-scale vertical farming, as well as the Nanofarm, a Kickstarter project developed by two Georgia Tech students that will deliver produce in the second half of 2017. Benefits shared by both approaches include soilless environments, 24-hour lighting, no pesticides and accelerated growth.

In possibly the most squeamish section of the exhibit, bugs are literally introduced into our food system. Another section celebrates guerrilla growers; citizens that grow food on property they do not own for the benefit of all. Also, innovations in food distribution are highlighted, including stores with no checkout lines—transactions are completed with smartphones—and pop-up produce stands on public transit lines such as the Fresh MARTA Markets at the West End, Five Points, College Park and H.E. Holmes stations.

Admission is $5 to $10; children under 5 free. The exhibit runs through May 7. Location: 1315 Peachtree St. NE. For more information, call 404-979-6455 or visit

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