My Fulbright Story: Food for Thought

There’s certainly a lot to love about living in Boston – the cityscape, the people, the culture, 

But as I’ve taken the time to stop and smell the roses, it amazes me the sorts of things I didn’t think I would miss from home, and the clever innovations I want to see more of. 

Thumbs up: Service connectivity

It shouldn’t be a surprise that US-born tech giants like Amazon and Uber have changed the way we operate. Their impact could not be felt harder than in its birthplace. 

Amazingly (pun not intended), Amazon accounts for ~ 50% of e-commerce gross merchandising value in the U.S. 

And when 1 in 3 Americans own a Amazon Prime account (a premium subscription service that gives free express delivery as well as other benefits), and spend on average ~$1500 USD a year, it’s easy to see how the numbers add up. 

Who knew that next-day shipping would be that thing we all wanted but never thought we needed?

Similarly, since Uber acquired Cornershop (a Latin-American owned delivery app), buying groceries are just a click (and less than 90 minutes) away. 

Is it more expensive? Well, in true science fashion, I conducted my own experiment.

I created a shopping cart on UberEats with all the groceries I wanted (and factored in tips and other fees) and then proceeded to shop at my local food store for the exact same items. 

Turns out the total price was very similar, if not slightly cheaper on UberEats (especially if you have an UberOne account). 

Although the unfortunate and harsh reality about these big giants is the impact on small brick and mortar businesses, perhaps there’s a way it could be a win-win for all? 

We should be able to embrace technology and engage with our community simultaneously. Just how, I’m not sure, so I’ll leave this question to business-minded folks.  

Thumbs up: Accessibility

Many people have told me about how Boston is a very ‘walkable city’. It didn’t really occur to me just how ‘walkable’ everything is until I started noticing the number of people walking with dogs. Literally everywhere. 

Shopping centres. Apartment buildings. Trains (yes, you can buy a train ticket for your cat or dog!)

What’s better is that nearly every building I’ve come across has motion-censored doors for accessibility. 

I don’t mean ramps at the entrance and exits of a building – I mean doors within buildings. Corridors, passage ways, you name it. 

The inclusivity embedded within the architecture is so thoughtful, I wish it was more common!

Thumbs down: Music-less pedestrian crossings 

I’m not usually a Billie Eilish listener but if you’re a fan of Bad Guy, you might recognise a little soundbite taken from Sydney’s urban sounds – the now infamous pedestrian crossing. 

When I watched Billie and Finneas break down their hit single, I thought it was quite amusing how they found our pedestrian crossing to be so… interesting?

Well, it wasn’t until I started waiting for – and missing – the lights in Boston that I realised how useful the sound was! 

I must admit, most of the time when I’m waiting at the lights, I’m looking anywhere but the red man standing on the other side. 

Maybe this is a lesson for me to pay more attention, but it also doesn’t hurt to make crossings more musical, no? 

Thumbs down: Costly fresh produce 

There’s no doubt that many people around the world are experiencing the effects of inflation from increased cost of fuel and travel to food prices.

However, the cost of fresh produce in Boston seemed remarkably higher compared to Sydney. 

For example, kiwifruits can cost on average 30% or more than in Sydney, and Granny Smith apples can be up to 200% more expensive! 

At first, I hypothesised that a lack of local farming might be a reason for this since Australia is rich in locally grown produce (and we are proud of it!). 

Sure enough, the U.S. does seem dependent on imported produce from South America and Mexico, particularly during the harsh winter season. And with rising wages, energy costs, and transportation issues, all of these factors can inevitably result in increased prices at the counter. 

The downside to all this is that in comparison, highly processed foods such as cookies and sugary bars are much cheaper per serving than fresh fruit and veg. 

Given that recent research has shown that consumers (particularly for low income families) can be discouraged from having a healthy diet based on food pricing, maybe it’s time we discuss how we can make healthy food more accessible and equitable?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

This post is not sponsored. All views are my own

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