Can a vegetable tell a story about food access in Somerville? Yep.

"70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch" - laser-cut onto a cucumber

“70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch” – laser-cut onto a cucumber.

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!

We’ve worked with the Somerville Food Security Coalition a few times, including for our first data mural pilot project! Recently, we had a chance to come together again around their local data about food security at the Somerville Arts Council’s 2014 Ignite Festival. The festival celebrates fire and food, which inspired us to laser cut some data onto food and see how people reacted!


Here are all the veggies (and other foods) we cut — eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, bread, and watermelon:


In addition, we prompted folks to interact with two questions – both of which they could answer with M&Ms and raisins. Asking folks to take an M&M survey is a highly effective way to get them to interact with their data!

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video showing the laser cutter in action:


Rahul Bhargava creates playful websites, explanatory data visualizations, award-winning educational museum exhibits, and interactive robots. He has led workshops on a number of topics across three continents, leading to a special interest in finding ways to build technologies and experiences that meet the disparate needs of varying communities and cultures. Rahul is currently working on a variety of technologies to support community building and civic engagement.

This story originally appeared on the MIT Center for Civic Media blog and Rahul Bhargava’s Data Therapy Blog.