Create Your Own Food Miles Demonstration

This Page lets one download an annotated Excel spreadsheet for printing a food miles receipt like the one pictured below. It is meant to provide a resource for educators who would like to set up a food miles checkout demonstration.  See instructions below receipt image. While I have not used this in a formal academic setting, I believe that, aside from being integrated into a discussion of where our food comes from, it could also be part of lessons on energy & conservation, geography, mathematics, and nutrition. By just running the spreadsheet as is, one can quickly give students insight into where their foods come from.  More detailed work might include trying to research and adapt the sheet to one's own reality. Investigating the background of one's foods can lead down many an interesting trail.



General instructions for setting up your own mock market with a food miles checkout

1) This is most easily done for "whole foods", i.e., foods without multiple ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat cuts.

2) Study the Excel spreadsheet. It already contains some basic foods and information. This particular version was made for a demonstration market in NYC. You can accept it as is or change it.

3) Decide what foods you want to use in your "market" and buy enough to set up a simple store. Of course, you don't have to really get the items from the places listed in the spreadsheet, this is all pretend. Or, if you want to delve deeper, you can go to a real store nearby and study what items they have and where they really come from. You can then modify the spreadsheet to reflect what you discover. Just a hint - if you decide to do liquid dairy but don't have a cooler, empty out the milk and yogurt into freezer bags and freeze it. You can then refill the containers with water so that you won't have to worry about it going bad.

4) Set up your store, marking each item with its price and place of production.

5) Find a scale, a printer, and a computer for your market. Heck, you can even dress up your computer to look like a cash register.

6) Give your customers a bag and let them shop. It can be fun to try to replicate your actual shopping habits or customers can form partners with one partner shopping local and the other non-local.

7) Check them out, filling in the appropriate columns of the sheet, and printing out their receipt as described in the description of the spreadsheet that is downloadable above.

8) Use the description of the receipt to help them understand their receipt.

9) Make sure to eat the food or give it to those who will.

10) Repeat if desired. It becomes much more difficult to get local produce in the Northeast during winter (and what does arrive might often come from energy-intensive heated greenhouses). It is interesting to repeat this exercises during different seasons and think about the differences and about seasonal diets. For an example, see Cornell's seasonal diet information.

Useful Links

ATTRA: Information on many aspects of sustainable agriculture including food miles (

BALLE Business Alliance for Local Living Economies: Thoughts and resources for supporting local economies (

Berkshire Grown: Farms, farming and Farmer’s Markets for our Massachusetts neighbors (

Cornell Cooperative Extension: 4-H and other services for and about agriculture (

Cornell Cooperative Extension's Guide to Eating Seasonally in the Northeast

Schumacher Center for a New Economics: Information about and tools for local economies ( A website about food transport and commerce (

Land Stewardship Project: Tools for promoting farming as good land stewardship (

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture: Issues relating to sustainable agriculture; see especially the extensive & detailed work by Rich Pirog and colleagues (

Life Cycles: A very nice explanation of food miles and their calculation (

Organic Agriculture Information from The Rodale Institute (

NOFA, Northeast Organic Farming Association: Find out about organic farms in your area (

Redefining Progress: Discussion of the idea and application of Ecological Footprints (