Eating Oil, Eating Sunshine Lecture by Michael Pollan

We’re getting really excited for Michael Pollan and Raj Patel to speak at Edible Education 101. To give you a feel for what to expect we have pulled notes from one of Pollan’s lectures from last year, Eating Oil, Eating Sunshine. Although it’s a bit dated it’s still a great read and the information is still relevant.

Pollan begins the lecture by explaining how the story we tell ourselves as a culture about food is in the process of changing dramatically. The story about where it comes from, the story about how it is produced, and the story about its impact on our health and the environment.

The story Pollan grew up with around food was that food was a simple thing that was either from the supermarket or a factory. It didn’t bear much consideration.  The industry made food abundant and cheap, and it was regarded to as a form of fuel or entertainment. The relationship of a chicken nugget and an actual living and dying chicken was not even considered, it was just  food with a nominal relationship to chicken.

Most of the stories you heard back then about food were through marketing brands which often delivered deliberate lies about how food was made, what it was made of and what it would do for you if you ate it. Most of the consumers accepted these stories uncritically, and that is the beginning of the change. The uncritical accepting of these things is starting to give way all across the country.

People outside of the food industry including chefs, activists, journalists, farmers, and environmentalists have been telling very different stories about food…about where it comes from and how it is produced, about its implication on our health and the environment and our culture, and these stories have consequences.

Pollan explained that there is a story you can tell about a big Mac that will change the minds of the consumer, and the behavior of consumers and it will change things in the corporations that produce it. Who gets to tell the story of food is the question now? It’s a real battle of the food industry trying to regain control of the story of food and the groups that want to change that story….and who gets to tell that story whether its journalists, food corporations, citizens, or students really matters greatly to our health, to the environment, and to the world.

A few years ago Pollan was curious to find out where his McDonald’s burger truly came from. He had the opportunity to answer that question while he was working on an assignment for the New York Times magazine. He had the idea of buying a steer and following it all the way through the food system until he bought it at a happy meal at McDonald’s. He was able to meet the steer in South Dakota.

After  the steer had spent six months of his life in an idyllic pasture he was moved to a feed lot. When Pollan arrived to meet the steer he was shocked by the landscape. There was a giant feed mill in the background and two mountains that the cows would stand on. One mountain was made of corn and the other was made of manure. The cows were standing all day long knee-deep in manure.

When Pollan noticed the major role corn played on that feed lot (because that was the bulk of the cows diet) he realized to really understand the origin of that burger he had to go back farther still. He had to go to the farms where the corn was grown– and beyond that to where the oil fields were in the middle east where the oil to make the fertilizer –  to grow the corn- to feed the cattle comes from and the pesticides- to grow the corn was also made from oil. He realized that this simple object was part of a very complicated food chain and that food chain was implicated in three of the most important issues or society has faced, the energy crisis, health care and climate change.

Pollan said  that you can’t really understand these issues without taking account of the role of the food system because 20 percent of the fossil fuels we use in this country goes to the food system. A lot of it is in the form of fertilizer but also for trucking, for drying the corn after it has harvested, for processing the food and for moving it around the world. In healthcare we spend about $750 billion a year on chronic diseases and about $500 billion of those chronic diseases are linked to diet. Lastly, climate change – somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of green house gasses are from the food system.

Pollan then shared something that was more hopeful which was that any change we manage to make in the way we eat or any push in the direction of greater sustainability is going to help with all three of these problems.

Pollan went on to explain how any calorie you have ever eaten ultimately comes from the sun. The only gain that we can get from eating is photosynthesis. This is a key fact that sunlight can feed us, which suggests that it might be theoretically possible to wean ourselves off of this food system of a heavy diet of oil and perhaps begin to push that back to the sun. To understand this we must know a bit of history. We all know pre World War II  farming because it’s the image marketers have been trying to sell food to us, with the picket fences and happy chickens and so forth.

In a sense that was what farming was like pre World War II. It was a solar and human power system where the sun fed the plants, the plants fed the animals, and the animals fed us, and in turn the animals with their manure would feed the plants. Even though this system didn’t provide huge amounts of food it was from an ecological point of view incredibly efficient.

And here is an example of how you can measure that, a calorie is just any unit of heat, and  pre World War II  for every calorie of fossil fuel energy farmers used they got back two calories of food energy. That is a net gain of one calorie.

After World War II there was a lot of pressure to get more food from fewer farmers. There was the baby boom , there were more mouths to feed, and there was a population that was sick of food rationing.

We were also industrializing so there were more factories and the government set out to shrink the number of farmers, and to get each farmer to become more productive. They were able to accomplish this by adapting war machinery to agriculture and by using the research that had been used in chemical warfare to make pesticides. The system turned into a different model that moved to a factory system.

The factory system helped achieve the goal of producing food fast, and efficient with fewer farmers. Before World War II your average farmer in America could feed his family plus 20 other people, we now have a system in which one farmer can feed his family plus 150 other people.

As consumers this meant the price of food would drop considerably. In 1910, the average American spent a quarter of their income on food.  By 1960, that number fell to 18 percent and today that number is less than 10 percent.

This has been a blessing to many people ,but we have to acknowledge that there is a very high cost to producing cheap food. The first cost is oil. We are using a food system dependent on oil. Pollan did some research on how much oil it takes to make a double quarter pounder, and he found that it takes 26 ounces to make one burger, and that is only for the meat. When you are eating from this system you are eating oil.

Today the average calorie in the supermarket took ten fossil fuels to produce one calorie of food. That is what we mean when we say that the industrial food system is unsustainable, it can’t go on indefinitely.

The second cost of cheap food is health. The minimal thing that you want your food system to do is keep the population that depends on it healthy. Pollan explains that our food system is not doing that. We have an epidemic of chronic disease. We spend an enormous amount of resources on health care, and we have a population that is getting fatter and fatter. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, one-third of Americans are obese, and that number is expected to rise to 50 percent of the population in ten years. Four of the top ten killers in America are chronic diseases strongly related to diet but not entirely.

Looking at the overall climate issue and food — 13 pounds of CO2 is omitted into the atmosphere to make one burger.
The feed lots have 150,000 cattle and each one produces as much waste as 40 people in a day, which is equivalent to the city of Chicago’s waste. The difference is that the waste in the feed lots is not treated. It just sits in lagoons because most farms and feed lots are exempt from clean air and clean water laws. Now feed lots are the most serious point source of pollution in the country.
So in a nut shell that is the bad news; however,  there are some farmers who are doing it right and making a positive impact on our environment. We are going to look into those examples that Pollan gives us in our next post so stay tuned! We hope you found this post interesting, and we hope you learned a lot. For more information on Pollan’s lecture Eating Oil, Eating Sunshine check out this video.

Edible Education 101

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 7.14.52 PMEdible Education 101 is back for the spring and this year they have a lineup of food A-listers including Michael Pollan, Raj Patel, Alice Waters and many more that will explore how our food system works, and what we can do to make it more healthful, equitable and sustainable.

If you don’t live in the area don’t worry, each lecture will be made available for free through the Edible Schoolyard Project’s Vimeo and YouTube channels within one week of each lecture date. Recording links will be posted next to each lecture description.

Keep reading for course details, description and ticket information! Click here for more details and the upcoming schedule.

COURSE DETAILS

Day/Time: Mondays, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, Spring 2014

Location: Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley

Enrollment: Open to UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students, and the general public (via ticketing and online video)

InstructorsMichael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism; Raj Patel, Author, Activist, and Filmmaker

COURSE DESCRIPTION

By the end of this century, there will be 10 billion people living on a planet scorched and drenched by climate change. Already, nearly a billion people are undernourished, while over a billion are overweight. The systems that have brought this about can appear opaque and complex. In this course, we will enlist the skills of economists, agronomists, activists, biologists, farmers, chefs, diplomats, workers, entrepreneurs, parents, poets, and citizens to explain both how food systems work, and how they might be changed.

Tracing the food system through the rise of industrial agriculture at home and abroad, the twelve week course will introduce students to some current and controversial ideas about the future of food, through conversations with some of the leaders of the food movement in Berkeley, the United States, and around the world.

TICKETING FOR THE PUBLIC

Tickets will be made available to the general public for free, or with a suggested donation, via our website on a first come, first served basis. Registration links will go live on the Tuesday morning before the following Monday’s evening class (e.g. tickets for the first lecture on Monday, January 27 will become available for reservation on Tuesday, January 21 at 10:00am). You may reserve tickets by clicking the “Register” link next to the title of each lecture, or via our events page.

Introducing Food Scholar Corner

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We are excited to share that we will be launching Food Scholar Corner on our blog very soon. Each month we will be featuring renown leaders in the food movement. We will explore a broad range of topics including organic food, buying local, healthy tips, recipes to make with local food, and more.

If you have an idea that you would like us to feature please post it in the comment box!

 

New Years Resolution for Sustainable Living

As 2014, quickly approaches it becomes that time of year when we start thinking about what our new years resolutions will be. This year our focus is on living more sustainably and establishing realistic goals that will benefit ourselves, our families and our environment. In order to stay true to our goals and not crash and burn after March we’ve split some of our resolutions by month making it more achievable. After you’ve become accustomed to changing your daily routines it’s easier to start adding another component.

January

Start by making a few easy changes this month such as setting the thermostat a few degrees lower, unplugging appliances when you’re not using them, washing clothes in cold water when possible and by using a drying rack rather than machine drying. This month we want to keep it simple and get into the habit of incorporating these changes into our daily routines.

February

Now that you’re getting familiar with living more sustainably we are going to add recycling and composting to the agenda. The infographic below will give you an idea of what you can and cannot compost.

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March

This month we are going to start eliminating fast food and incorporating super foods into our diets. By cooking your own healthy meals not only will you lose weight, be healthier but you will be saving money while supporting local small farm agriculture. Be on the lookout for kale, chia seeds, quinoa, raw honey, and bee pollen.

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April 

Spring cleaning is here, and there is no better time for you to start making the switch to eco-friendly products. Opt for green cleaning products that offer biodegradable and recyclable packaging with non-toxic solutions. Then start making other eco-friendly swaps. Purchase a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water, reuse  LunchSkins instead of plastic baggies and use Wean Green glass cubes, bowls, and tubs to store leftover food instead of the plastic containers.

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LunchSkins ($9; reuseit.com), have so far saved more than 120 million plastic baggies from landfills.

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Wean Green containers are made from is five times stronger than regular glass and has no plastic chemicals to migrate into the food.

May 

As May approaches we encourage you to walk or bike to work. Doing this will save gas as well as parking cost and will improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of obesity. If you live far from your work you could consider telecommuting. On May 8th 2014, participate in Bike to Work Day, the premier city-wide bike event of the year! Tens of thousands of people join the masses to hop on a bike and pedal to the office

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June

This month we challenge you to start growing some of your own food. You don’t have to be a farmer to harvest the sweetest cherry tomatoes. All it takes is a little will power and space. If you live in a city consider searching for a community garden to join.

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July

The weather in July is perfect for getting outdoors and shopping at your local farmers market. Be sure to grab a canvas tote bag that you can reuse for all of your shopping activities. Now that you’ve had your hand in gardening from the last month you will have something in common to spark up a good conversation with the local farmers. Let them know how your produce turned out and ask them for advice. After buying your local food search for a cook book that specializes in offering recipes using fresh ingredients.

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August 

In August  we’re going to focus on saving water. There are a couple of easy ways to save water such as taking shorter showers, installing a low-flow shower head, and making sure you have a faucet aerator.

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September

Be mindful of your consumption habits and reduce unnecessary items. Think hard before you buy something new: do you need it or do you just want it? Think before you buy.

October 

Change your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are more efficient than regular incandescent bulbs, but they contain mercury — a hazardous material that’s been linked to birth defects, brain damage and other conditions. Consider purchasing LED lights, which are safer than CFLs, more energy-efficient, and will last longer.

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November 

Start sharing your experiences of living sustainably with your friends and family. Help them understand that simple lifestyle changes often lead to money savings and making a difference to the environment around you.

December 

Prepare to have a sustainable holiday by cooking your meals with local food, invest in LED Christmas lights, keep your alcohol eco-friendly by selecting organic wines and local, small-scale organic brews. Stuff your stockings with yummy, natural treats such as dried fruits and nuts rather than plastic trinkets.  If having a living tree is apart of your holiday traditions, consider buying a plantable Christmas tree. Lastly, try wrapping presents in scarves, clothes and other reusable items rather than traditional wrapping paper.

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21 Creative Halloween Treats Using Locally Sourced Food

Halloween is almost here so we’ve made a list of the most creative Halloween treats to make this year. Switch out the traditional candy and opt for delicious local treats. Whether you’re hosting a Halloween party or handing out goodies, these treats will the ones to be remembered!

1. Melon Brain

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Instructions on how to make Melon Brain 

2. Spider deviled Eggs

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Follow this recipe to make spider deviled eggs

3. Caramel Apples 

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Make delicious caramel apples using this recipe

4.  Apple Teeth 

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Learn how to make Apple and Almonds teeth here

5. Candy Corn Veggie Tray 

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6. Clemintines with Pumpkin Faces

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7. Banana Ghosts and Clementine Pumpkins 

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8. Veggie tray with Pumpkin dip holder 

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9. Apple Mummies 

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10. Fruit Candy Corn 

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11. Bloody Eyes Deviled Eggs 

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Follow this recipe to make bloody deviled eggs 

12. Fresh cut carrots & black olives Jack-o-lantern 

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13. Puking Monster Melon 

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14. Ham and Cheese Witches’ Brooms Roll-ups

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15. Scary Halloween Fingers 

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16. Ghostly Poached Pears 

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Learn to make these ghostly poached pears here

17. Apple Sauce with Green Sprinkles 

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18. Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers

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This recipe will teach you how to make this tasty entrée 

19. Pumpkin Fruit Kabob

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20. Carrots and humus 

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 21. Frankenstein Veggie Platter
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What creative Halloween treats are you thinking about making for Halloween 2013?
Let us know in the comment box below!

Pro Tips on How to Work a Farmers’ Market with Alice Waters

Alice Waters founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and American pioneer of a culinary philosophy that maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally guides us through the farmers’ market in her New York Times segment: How to Work a Greenmarket. She provides helpful tips on what inspires her purchases and how she selects produce.

“I never have anything in mind when I come to the farmers’ market. It’s just like a blank slate, and I have lots of expectations of what I’m going to be able to find” – Alice Waters.

Her Approach: 

Waters explains when she gets to the farmers’ market she does a quick run through where she looks for what speaks to her. The first time around she isn’t buying anything because she just wants to get a big picture of the market and an overall sense of what the vendors are selling. If there is something she knows is very rare and special then she will quickly make the purchase. She references finding golden raspberries as being hard to find in the market so that is an item she will run in and buy, but normally she is just trying to get an overview.

First she looks for the sustainable, organic farmers. That tells her about the purity of the food, and that is the most important. Then she looks for food that speaks to her. She looks for the aliveness of the food. In the video segment she displays a large amount of freshly picked green beans that still have the leaves attached and uses that as an example of food that is looking back at her.

“I’m looking for the ends of the food to make sure they aren’t all brown and look like they’ve been picked this morning so something that is really alive in that way.”

She says that if the leaves are still attached to the food then you know it has just been picked. She continues to guide us through the market by sharing what she looks for next, which is food that is in season. She asks the vendors at the farmers’ market all types of questions to really get an idea of what food they are offering. Then she explains how she is also looking for food such as peppers and egg plants that come later in the season. She picks up several different peppers to make sure they don’t have any blemishes. She turns the peppers upside down to make sure the ends aren’t brown. Then she mentions that she is always the most interested in peppers that still have the leaves clinging to the sides.

Lastly, she says that she is looking for her friends at the farmers’ market. Waters has an open dialogue with the farmers and loves to compliment the farmers on the appearance of the food and ask them for advice. She asks the farmers what they think is the ripest and sweetest food, but not with the idea of being critical, but rather the pure curiosity of wanting to know what this person knows that she doesn’t know. Waters explains that you are the one buying the food, but you haven’t been involved in the process of growing and ultimately picking the fruit or vegetable so she likes to know what they think.

While walking around the farmers’ market she thinks of what she would have for lunch that day. She has a great idea of what she wants to make with each item she buys. When she gets home she spreads the food out on her table and examines it and decides what she wants to make today and what she wants to make tomorrow. She mentions that the very perishable things will be eaten first.

With these tips now you too can work a farmers’ market like a pro. What tips do you have when going to the farmers’ market? Comment below!

Benefits of Raw, Local Honey

cd9240e3de63c63f0a3cd5a54291e8beThis past weekend I attended the Eat Real Festival in Oakland, California to discover new local favorites. If you’re not familiar with the Eat Real Festival, it’s an annual celebration of food that focuses on food craft, street food, handcrafted beers and local wines – all featuring sustainable local ingredients. They showcase food in all its different forms, and they have demonstrations showing you how to make food and grow it.

I was so impressed with the festival that I went for two days to chat with the local vendors and taste as much of the local food as possible. I approached the Marshalls Farm Natural Honey stand and tried a few samples of honey. I absolutely love honey, and I was excited to try several different varieties.

Before attending the festival I had never tasted local honey. I purchased honey from the store without realizing there were better options I hadn’t discovered. I was also unaware of the diversity of flavors among the different varieties of honey. I was accustomed to the standard store-bought flavor of honey. I tried three samples of honey that had very distinct flavors. I loved each one I tried and ended up walking away with a bear of Infused Lavender Honey. It tasted delicious and smelled like perfume. It’s safe to say I have made the switch from store-bought honey to local!

After chatting with the vendor at Marshalls Farm Natural Honey I learned that they specialize in Allergy California Honey and San Francisco Kosher Honey. Their honey is 100% natural, and you can see pollens floating in their honey because they don’t use pumps, pipes, or filters when extracting and hand bottling their pure San Francisco Natural Honey.

Raw honey is different from the average honey bought at the grocery store. Using the pasteurized honey from the average store is as unhealthy as consuming refined sugar. Raw honey is different because it has not been pasteurized, heated or processed in any way, and therefore contains many valuable benefits. It’s important that the honey is never heated above 140 degrees, which would destroy all of its beneficial enzymes. pasteurization is a heating process used to kill enzymes and microbes that spur the growth of harmful bacteria and extend shelf life. This process is unnecessary because honey is already naturally anti-microbial in its raw state. Raw honey is a living food full of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and powerful antioxidants. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. (Source)

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  • Helps digestion

  • Acts as a cough suppressant

  • Eliminates allergies

  • Stabilized blood pressure

  • Balances blood sugar

  • Calms nerves

  • Strengthens immune system

  • Relieves pain

  • Treats ulcers, sore throats, colds and indigestion

  • Contains phytonutrients, which have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties

  • Source of vitamins B2 and B6, copper, iron and manganese

So why local raw honey?

Raw honey contains pollen that is specific to your area and can really help those like me with seasonal allergies. Taking a spoonful of raw honey once or twice a day is very helpful. It is also advised to begin taking local honey a few months prior to the allergy season; this gets the pollen introduced into your body and gradually builds up in your tolerance to seasonal allergies.

Good Eggs, Making Buying Local Simple

After learning about the Bay Area’s new virtual farmers’ market, Good Eggs, I was excited to try it out and share my experience with our readers. At Global Food Scholar we’re all about discovering food less traveled and purchasing local food. Good Eggs truly delivers when it comes to  providing the farm-to-fork service for their customers. Once you place your order on their website the items are taken from local family farms and driven to a warehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco where it joins hundreds of other locally grown foods ready to be delivered to Bay Area residents.

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After entering the site shoppers can browse based on their delivery location. There is a slight variation in the goods available from region to region, but most staples are available to everyone. The selection on Good Eggs changes frequently because it depends on the farmers inventory. The next step is to select the date you want to receive your order. The soonest you can receive your order is in two days.

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While scrolling through the Good Eggs  market you will notice that each product description is accompanied by an image of the food along with an image and bio of the producer. This information is included in hopes that shoppers will feel just as connected to the farmers and cooks selling on Good Eggs as they do while chatting at a farmers’ market. Another feature that the site offers is the ability to contact each individual farmer by visiting the farmers webstand. You also have the option to shop by producer, which provides you with an even wider selection of goods.

The food producers who work with Good Eggs are held to high standards. They are expected to sell organic and local products as well as provide transparency regarding their sourcing and growing practices to their consumers. Good Eggs believes that transparency between producer and consumer helps to strengthen relationships across the food community.

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The prices on Good Eggs is rather steep for the average family (a dozen eggs $7, and a whole chicken $24), however; you can find fruits and vegetables that are less expensive if you’re on a budget (a basket of raspberries $3.50, and a basket of sun gold tomatoes $4.50). I’ve provided my order below to give you a better idea of the prices. I also received a $10 off discount for my first order, which everyone receives for making their first purchase.

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The ordering process was very simple. Once you have selected your items you can choose to pick up your order at a few of the locations or have it delivered for $3.99. I opted to pick up my groceries in the Financial District and was pleased to see that they packaged the items that needed to be refrigerated in silver insulated sleeves with ice packs tucked inside. It was a nice touch that showed they went the extra mile to ensure my items were kept fresh. My experience shopping on Good Eggs was fantastic. I was happy with my order, the food looked enticing and tasted divine. I was also impressed with the way the food looked exactly the way it did in the pictures. I have included a photo gallery of the food I bought.