Food as health or death

Dear Readers,

Today, I’d like to share with you my personal thoughts on two new studies. Both are about the effects of food consumption on the body, yet they focus on very different aspects. While one study highlights the benefits of consuming diverse foods, the other instills a sense of fear, which may damage the food waste movement (but only if we let it).

The reason this is important is because the studies highlight once again that we are what we eat. And being very intellectual creatures, who don’t just rely on word of mouth to make decisions, these findings can present some important facts on which to build sound and logical conclusions.

Ok, enough with the introduction, let’s leap into the research.

The Good News

Those of you who already love vegetables and fruits, you are well positioned for a long and healthy life. A new study shows that we need to uptake our fresh produce intake from five (as originally thought) to 10 fruits and veggies a day.

The study completed by Imperial College London demonstrates that such a diet can lead to “24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths.” Wow…that’s a handful!

So what does 10 portions, or 800 g, of fruit and veggie intake look like? Here’s a nice visual for you by The Guardian. This article also mentions that some fruits and veggies are better at increasing certain health factors than others.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-1

Specifically: “Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were found to be best at preventing heart disease and stroke”.

Those who worry about cancer risks (which is very understandable, as any symptom search on Google will likely suggest possibilities of cancer), you can focus on “green vegetables (beans), yellow and orange vegetables (peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables”.

Unfortunately, these benefits are mainly found when biting into real food, and less so through supplements and other pills. So those who are short on time, consider replacing your breakfast with a green smoothie (or if that’s not filling enough), at least try to make that your first drink of the day, before switching to coffee (or anything else that strikes your fancy).

 
The Bad News

Now, onto the bad news. Another study, completed by a researcher from Harvard University, demonstrated that because food makes up the building blocks of our cells, “eating older organisms (or food) – which have more molecular damage themselves- might cause an animal to age faster than one that eats younger organisms with less molecular damage”.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-2
Specifically, “the old diet shortened lifespan by 18% in yeast and 13% in flies. In the mice, the old diet shortened lifespan by 13% in female mice, but there was no significant effect among males”, (lucky males!).

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-3

But as these experiments were done on animals, (not humans), we do not know exactly what effect this would have on humans, so let’s not jump the gun, but, let’s think a bit more about what we put into our mouths (and subsequently our bodies). And if you are unsure whether the food is safe to eat, please use your smell and visual senses before tossing aging produce into the bin.

My Conclusion 

It’s time we see food as more than something we consume to quiet our hunger (the sounds and feelings of an empty stomach are real). And let’s not just see it as a source of energy and fuel. Instead, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body, provides materials for our building blocks, and sends instructions to our brain.

“Food contains methyl groups (a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms (CH3)) capable of methylating (silencing) genes, [which] brought into focus the capability of food to profoundly affect disease risk as well phennotypal expression. If folate, B12, or Betaine– 3common food components — can literally ‘shut off’ gene expression with high specificity, food becomes a powerful information vector. One which may actually supervene over the DNA within our body by determining which sequences find expression”.

Phew, that’s a lot of scientific terms and chemistry in one paragraph, but the bottom line is this: food not only gives you fuel, or activates your taste buds (which in itself is lovely), but it is a very powerful tool, one that can determine your health and longevity.

This means that when you are hungry and looking for something to eat, what you reach for will not just satisfy your hunger, it will also determine your near future. Therefore, we should consider the idea of ‘real food’ vs. ‘food like’ items. Things that have been processed, filled with chemicals and created in a lab (mainly junk food). These foods not only lead to obesity, but they also wreak havoc on your health and beauty.

The best example of this are the Nenets and Khanty tribes in northern Siberia who now have cases of obesity thanks to the introduction of instant noodles, pasta, bread and sugar.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-5
And since not many of us live on a farm (or even close to one), and definitely don’t have time or money to go shopping at farmers markets (and those who do sometimes lack the time to cook what they haul until it’s on the verge of decomposing in the fridge or shelf),  I would like to urge all of us to think more about frozen food!

Frozen foods can have as much nutritional value (if not more) as their fresh counterparts. How? Well, they are packaged at the peak of their ripeness (so all the good vitamins stay where they are). Also, as they are frozen, they can be the quick and easy go to option for those short on time and money (admit it, our lives are stressful and hectic). On top of all that, as our years continually get warmer, keeping your food in the freezer can ensure that it stays crisp and delicious, without going to waste.

Here’s a nice video to summarize the above paragraph:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=zjsOOT347cA


Final Words

I hope this post widens your understanding of food, and peaks your interest in seeing fruits and veggies as more than a ‘side dish’ around the protein on your plate. Hopefully, they can slowly become the staple of your diet, the one that helps you live a healthy life.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below.

Happy eating friends!
Hokuma 

Ovtene: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Ovtene is a packaging technology company that was inspired by the protection provided by an eggshell, which extends the shelf life of food products while maintaining their sensory characteristics and freshness.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-1

2. How long have you been in business? 

Ovtene products were launched in Italy in 2008, and extended their reach into most of Europe by 2015. These products became available in North America in 2016. 

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

In 2005, Alberto Tomasini was troubled by how swiftly certain foods became less palatable, dried out, deteriorated, and eventually became inedible. Inspired by the functions of the egg he began researching at the University of Udine Food Sciences in Italy, and eventually developed the material known as Ovtene. This material has the capacity to keep nearly any perishable food item fresh for much longer by retarding bacterial and mold growth.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-3

After being highly successful in Italy, the product moved into other European countries for grocery and food production packaging. In 2012, we began thinking of North America, the next largest producer of fine foods and its consumption. In 2016, after much positive exploratory research of the North American market, the FDA approved the product, at which point we launched six of our products into the grocery and food procure markets in the USA.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Providing a sensible alternative to paper and plastic packaging, that extend the shelf life naturally with a much lower environmental footprint. Ovtene utilizes 60% less plastic than traditional packaging and neither water nor trees are consumed in its construction.

For a bit more information, take a look at their feature on Deli Market TVsaynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-4

5. How do you measure success?

Initially we look for successful independent testing evaluations followed by positive customer feedback and retention. When our grocery accounts customers begin asking for Ovtene by name and when food producers tell us that their products get to market fresher than before, we know we are onto something.

The next level of success is measured by actual sales and penetration into the many other uses of Ovtene. As well as, when the end user realizes the nutritional value of color, smell and taste of their food that is preserved with our product, unlike any other packaging.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

We learned from food producers and customers that Ovtene can keep products fresh that we hadn’t even thought to test before, such as citrus, floral and herbs. We also learned that Ovtene could be used to overcome the Van der Waals forces of clumping in powders when packaged. Cheese producers we discovered use Ovtene in the aging process as well as the final packaging for market. We also learned that many opportunities exist from Ovtene as it can be placed into stiff containers. In addition, we learned that OTR or the oxygen transmission rate was perfect for packaging fish as recommended by the FDA.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-5

The pouches are more popular in the US than in Europe. And people like to see the product, so windows need to be an option in many packaging applications. Most of all, people like to do what is easiest and change is difficult, and is viewed as a personal risk for users to initiate. But, they implement the product if they see that significant savings can be attained.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-6

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

With great products comes the adrenaline of trying to do too much all at once. Stay focused and tackle the markets that you know work. The rest will fall into place. FDA and USDA approvals were important recognitions, but were an extensive process. 

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Thermoforming and injection molding, and the introduction of the next generation of Ovtene, which we call OvteneActive. EU patents are approved for this even more protective form of Ovtene.

We believe that Ovtene packaging will increase the shelf life throughout the production and distribution chain. Ovtene can help bring fresh food to under served communities and decrease food waste due to spoilage. Ovtene can decrease the risk of bacterial contamination in food and beyond.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-7

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Appetizer: Fresh Ccup Carpaccio, cooked in lemon, pepper and olive oil.
Dinner: Barramundi, Australian Sea Bass, grilled plain served with a Sicilian Caponata.
Dessert: Almond Biscotti and Vin Santo (aged 10 or more years).

Salvatore Giglia, representative of Ovtene in North America

Food Recovery is Great, but far from Perfect

I’ve tried my fair share of seemingly-strange food combinations, but I have never thought to try combining tomatoes and chocolate in anything other than Mexican mole sauces. However, I read a story on NPR a couple weeks ago about how three Spanish chefs had created chocolate truffles with dried Nigerian tomatoes – and served them at the World Economic Forum, no less! The creations, “Bombom Kaduna,” were designed to raise awareness of the fact that 75% of Nigeria’s tomatoes are annually wasted.

produce-tomatoes

Professor Christopher Barrett of the Charles H. Dysons School of Applied Economics and Management was one of several people quoted in the article scoffing at the idea. One thing he took issue with, which I saw echoed in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail last week, is the concept of trying to use food waste to alleviate world hunger. As the latter article notes: “Hunger is what happens as a result of privation and poverty. Treating hunger through society’s waste compounds the indignity of hunger, and points us away from more permanent solutions.”

I wholeheartedly agree that food recovery is not the solution to hunger. These two articles do a good job discussing how poverty should be better addressed to combat hunger, but I also know that the problem of food waste warrants much more comprehensive strategies. First off, it seems pretty impossible to recover the over 1 billion tons of food that are “lost” every year. Secondly, most of the world’s food waste stems from so-called first world, such as the United States and European Union, while most of the world’s hungry people live in rural Asia and Africa. The logistics of transplanting the excess of one country to another isn’t feasible on a large enough scale to feed all those in need.

saynotofoodwaste.foodquote.sustainability.love.share.care.give.behappy.nature1

That is not to say that there are not food insecure people in the first world or that food recovery is by any means a bad idea. Donating to soup kitchens and food banks is an excellent use of surplus, even if it isn’t a solution to hunger or its causes. However, there is a danger that food donors might not take any other steps to prevent waste. After all, what’s wrong with generating excess when it’s going to feed hungry people? Well, not only does it dehumanize the hungry by treating them as garbage bins; it also encourages a food system that promotes overabundance, thereby waste.

The best compromise, I believe, is one that my college practices. I am a student Food Recovery Network volunteer at the University of Rochester, and we freeze surplus from campus dining establishments to deliver to a local soup kitchen. Most importantly, we inventory the kinds of foods being donated so that the school can see what foods it can afford to cut back on. For instance, we now find ourselves donating far fewer bagels than we did four years ago, when they constituted the majority of our inventory, because the school has adjusted to the apparent lack of demand.

Food recovery is not the be-all, end-all solution to hunger or food waste. However, it’s a good step in the right direction and brings attention to these critical issues.

Eva

Repurposed Pod: This is Their Story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Repurposed Pod hopes to disrupt the cocoa industry through new cacao crop innovations, advancing cacao agriculture and adding value back to the supply chain.

2. How long have you been in business? 

We started Repurposed Pod in October of 2014. We launched our first product (100% Cacao Juice) 2 years later October 2016.

dscf0355

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

We have always been in the cocoa industry and spent many years trekking across the beautiful cacao farms. Traditionally, the farmers will hand pick a cacao pod off the tree, crack it open and you pop the cocoa beans in your mouth to taste the sweet fruit pulp which surrounds the bitter beans. It’s always been a highlight to our days on the farm. Some of this sweet fruit pulp is used in the fermentation step of the cocoa harvesting process. However, the rest is simply wasted. We realized we could bring to life this beautiful fruit to the U.S. market and by utilizing this wasted  sweet fruit, we could bring additional value to the cacao supply chain, and provide premiums to the farmers through increasing land utility. It was one of those magical “ah, ha” moments we will never forget..

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

By reinventing the cacao crop’s 3,000 year old post harvest process. Repurposed Pod had the opportunity to provide a new perspective on “the fruit that brings you chocolate.” No longer is Cacao only the crop of cocoa beans, it is also the crop of cacao fruit juice.

cacao_4

5. How do you measure success?

We measure success against our mission of advancing cacao agriculture and improving the livelihoods of cacao farming families. This is the ultimate success.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

Starting your own business is ONE BIG learning curve. In the beginning you wear every hat, you learn every role (even roles you may not excel in or roles your not comfortable with).

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

As you navigate the rough waters of a start up remember your mission You embarked on this journey for a purpose, a purpose to help make the world a better place. Remember your purpose and stay true to your mission every step of the way. Let it guide your decisions, let it lift you up when you reach obstacles (because you will!) and allow yourself to celebrate the successes along the way  (big and small).

View More: http://char-co.pass.us/repurpose-pod-jpegs

8. What’s next? 

We are constantly innovating and brewing new ideas. Let’s just say Cacao Juice is only the beginning for Repurposed Pod.

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

I love to cook healthy foods Monday I made this Thai Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce, it was amazing!!! You use peeled carrot as the noodles and sun butter for the “peanut sauce”.  

Kayla Weidner, founder of Repurposed Pod

5 Cookbooks to Help You Toss Less Food

Have you, or has someone you know, made a New Years resolution to cut down on food waste? In addition to perusing our blog, which has shared tons of tips to show how easy it is to prevent waste in general, be sure to check out these anti-waste cookbooks. They are full of delicious recipes that make use of leftovers and oft-discarded ingredients as well as teach readers how to respect food.

1. The Use-It-Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook by Catherine Kitcho

Sample recipes: Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate, Cheese Rind Soup, Cilantro Stem Green Sauce, Potato Peel Croutons, and Pumpkin Seed Mole

2. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food by Dana Gunders

Sample recipes: Banana Sorbet, Buried Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Chilaquiles, and Sour Milk Pancakes

cooking-chop3. The CSA Cookbook: No-Waste Recipes for Cooking Your Way Through a Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmers’ Market, or Backyard Bounty by Linda Ly

Sample recipes: Chard Stalk Hummus, Fennel Frond and Ginger Pesto, Pea Shoot Salad with Radish and Carrot, Skillet Greens and Bacon Bits with Pomegranate Gastrique, and Watermelon Rind and Jalapeño Pickles

4. The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavish.

Sample recipes: Chicken Breasts with Apple and Rosemary, Rosemary Lemonade, Salmon with Sweet and Spicy Chinese Cabbage, and Wild Mushroom and Potato Bisque

5. Love Your Leftovers: Through Savvy Meal Planning Turn Classic Main Dishes Into More Than 100 Delicious Recipes by Nick Evans

Sample recipes:Fire and Smoke Pizza, Jalapeño Popper Potato Skins, Shredded Chicken Hash, Spicy Beef Wontons, and Tomato Poached Cod

 

Wishing you a happy 2017 full of delicious food,

Eva

 

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

Wonky is a new juice brand that lives by the motto ‘give wonky fruit a chance’. We aim to be the most sustainable juice brand in Europe.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

It has been almost two years now, since we became entrepreneurs. Wonky Drinks start-up idea was developed by the University of South Wales students, along with co-founders Karina Sudenyte and Maciek Kacprzyk.

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-5

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

Maciek had huge interest in business since he was fifteen. His business ventures started from stock trading, these were the first steps when he began developing business skills. However, throughout his educational development he decided to follow a career in Law instead.

Now, after accomplishing my studies, I ditched my law career for a healthy food start-up called Wonky Drinks, with absolutely no regret. I am passionate about the food industry and positive causes for the environment. Of course, starting your own business as an entrepreneur is a lifestyle change. It is hard work, requires a lot of commitment and learning, but what is really important is that I converted my passions into my own business and met a second co-founder, Karina, with whom I linked over a great love for food, who helps to revive my ideas.

P.S. “She is a geek of sustainability! We both enjoy and are proud to be young entrepreneurs”. – Maciek Kacprzyk (Co-founder of Wonky)

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-3

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The first breakthrough occurred during our samplings at the Universities, where we managed to outsell Innocent drinks 11 to 1 at USW, and Bensons juices 8 to 1 in the BS managed canteens. These great results validated that our idea was not at all impossible! It gave us confidence and courage to believe in our concept and pursue impossible goals.

5. How do you measure success?

I consider all obstacles as positive challenge for improvement and success. Any business, sooner or later, is confronted with all kinds of problems, but it is natural, just like in life! A famous philosopher once said: “The man who has no more problems to solve, is out of the game.” This phrase should help you mentally in the approach to solving business problems with courage and give you a positive perception to succeed in your business venture.

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-1

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the _(retail)_ industry/get involved in _(entrepeneurial)_ work & start a _(company)_?

Believing in your idea is extremely important when you start your own business. Are you ready to have your own business? It is important to take into consideration every difficulty that is associated when becoming a new entrepreneur. You must be ready to devote yourself to the work, face new challenges and simply live the idea and breathe it – if so, then this is when you are ready to go.

8. What’s next?

Our key challenge at the moment is to convince at least 2 medium sized distributors that it is smart idea to give Wonky a chance. What is more our aim is to introduce Wonky drinks to 200 catering venues within two years time. Currently we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £13,000. Our mission is to raise some funding to save 300 tones of wonky produce by April 2017, by implementing and making small bottled wonkies!

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-6

9. Anything else you want to add?

If you like to give Wonky a chance, then click here to support this project. For more information visit www.wonkydrinks.co.uk or say hello at hello@wonkydrinks.co.uk

10. Fun question: What was the best meal you ate this week? 

We spent our lunch last week at the Tiny Leaf London – organic, zerowaste, vegetarian restaurant. Our choice was Tartine du Jour – it was a large slice of toasted bread covered with roasted tomato, pepper and courgette. Classic flavour combination and simply delicious!

This is their story

1.    Summarize your project/business in one sentence. 

The Urban Worm harnesses the power of vermicomposting, utilizing the humble earthworm to provide solutions in sustainable waste management and sustainable agriculture.


2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
 

Since December 2013 after being selected for the Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise program (WISEE) which provided me with a small start up grant and business model support.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-1

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

After completing my MA studies in Human Security and Environmental Change, specializing in Urban Food Security and Urban Agriculture I had to make the decision to either leave my native city (Nottingham) to find employment in my field or create an opportunity for myself and for my city, so The Urban Worm began.

Everybody of course has to eat and  building sustainable food systems will be at the heart of our ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Climate change, desertification and natural resource depletion are undermining global food security and the current corporate driven, energy intensive, unjust and chemical ridden model is neither sustainable or successfully meeting the nutritional needs of the world. We need to empower a different model that is local, organic and community driven and vermiculture provides the foundations for this movement by producing a superior organic fertilizer and compost. Worm castings are teeming with beneficial microbes essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression with exceptional water holding capacity, perfect for urban gardens and extreme weather events which we are experiencing more of as a consequence of climate change.  The process of vermicomposting not only provides a high value by product, but the process is an efficient, low tech and cost effective system for a sustainable management of organic waste, as opposed to diverting the waste to landfill which further contribute to climate change as gases emitted from food waste are 31 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

By managing our waste at home we can make a positive contribution to building the foundations for sustainable societies and vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale, even if you live in a flat you can keep worms in your cupboard, the process is odorless and perfect for indoors.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-4


4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
 

Having the opportunity to travel to learn has by far been my greatest achievement. I was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT)  travel Fellowship to research vermiculture in the USA and Cuba, and this opportunity to learn has been inspiring and is wonderful to make international connections with like minded people, building a wider community of vermicomposting enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and passion. As I  I write this I am in New York preparing for the next Cuban leg of my research. Whilst traveling the west coast I saw vermicomposting in prisons, zoos, schools, colleges, universities as well as successful businesses,  it has been incredibly inspiring and presents a blueprint for developing institutional sustainable organic waste management in the UK. This will be the next achievement, so watch this space. From Cuba the learning will be vast as Cuba is considered to be the global leader in vermicomposting as after the breakdown of the soviet union they lost 80 % of their imports of synthetic fertilizers over night and so a sustainable alternative was called for, and the organic movement began, with worms.


5. How do you measure success?

Tricky one! I guess on a personal level success is to receive love, which I never feel in short supply of! On a professional level success is having influence to make positive change, locally and globally.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-2

6. What have you learned in the process? 

That  worms  definitely don’t like too many apples- I had a massacre situation a few years ago after a community apple pressing day. Sad, sad day, too much acid, a lesson learned the hard way.


7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the worm farming industry or  simply starting a wormery at home.

Just do it, the earth needs you.  We need more worm farmers, rural and urban and the process is very easy and can be set up for a very small cost. If not for profit we need to produce as much ‘black gold’ aka worm castings as we possibly can, even if we live in an apartment we can all make a positive contribution.  What greater contribution to the world can we make but to make earth again? Even if you don’t have a garden, a gardener or community garden would be very grateful for your gift. There is an abundance of information on the internet on how to get started and I have written a worm care guide available for download for free from our website www.theurbanworm.co.uk

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-3


8. What’s next?
 

On return from my WCMT travels, besides catching up with friends and family, and checking up on my worm culture, I will be working on a project that introduces vermicomposting into prisons in the UK. Institutions need to play a key role in practicing sustainable waste management and the USA has some incredibly successful models, notably Monroe Correctional Facility  in Washington.


9. Anything else you want to add?
 

Feed the worms, feed the soil, and feed the soul.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-6

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Whilst visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a delicious Italian restaurant in Glen Rock called Rocca, all local and organic produce. I had a bruschetta to start and spinach gnocchi for my main, perfect!

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

MealFlour is an environmentally sustainable social enterprise that provides training to build mealworm farms, raise mealworms, and turn them into protein-rich flour that can be incorporated in local staple foods or sold to bakeries and markets.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

We (Elizabeth Frank, Gabrielle Wimer, and Joyce Lu) have been working on the idea of MealFlour since December of 2015. In the summer of 2016, we began our pilot in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela). We are based in Xela, but we work with the communities on the outskirts of the city; our first community is Candelaria.

pic3

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

MealFlour started out as a thought experiment. We had all worked in community and global health and wished that more programs and social enterprises would take a holistic approach to improving health. We hoped MealFlour, with its emphasis on not only improving nutrition, but also on raising income and reducing waste, would be a more well-rounded approach to improving well-being. After we entered a few social enterprise competitions, earned enough seed funding, and confirmed local interest at our pilot site community, we realized that this thought experiment could actually become a reality, so we went for it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

One of our biggest concerns was finding out where to start.  Insects are eaten in 80% of countries around the world, including parts of Guatemala, but raising mealworms in this way is something new. When we pitched the concept to the group of women from a community in Candelaria and gave them samples of the mealworm products, they were excited to learn more and wanted to try out farming themselves.

5. How do you measure success?

Each week we discuss MealFlour’s progress with the farmers to receive their continuous feedback. In order to improve the program as it evolves, we track how many families are farming mealworms, how often they are eating mealworm flour, who in the family eats mealworm flour, open ended questions about attitudes towards mealworm farming and mealworm flour, and ease of uptake of the program. Success means that the women are still farming mealworms long after we have left, so it is important that we are constantly collaborating with farmers to build a business model that works for them.

It is also important to us that the flour they are producing is both improving nutrition in communities and creating new sources of income for the farmers (mostly women with young children). To measure this, we will be analyzing anthropometric data, conducting regular focus groups and surveys, and monitoring flour production and income.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-11-52-51-pm

6. What have you learned in the process?

Don’t be afraid to ‘make the ask’. This is advice we have gotten from a few different people along the way and (most of the time) it has really paid off – you’d be surprised how many people agree and want to help you.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (nutrition) industry/get involved in (global public health) work/start a (social enterprise)?

Global health is about getting an intimate understanding of the local context, integrating insights and developments from around the world, and continuing to learn from communities. We chose Guatemala because Joyce worked there for three months in 2015 and got to know the community well. It was important to us that we didn’t integrate into the community without having a close relationship with them first. We also think carefully about each step moving forward with MealFlour. We have a plan and timeline for what we hope to achieve each month, but we are also really flexible to the changes that inevitably come with listening to what the community wants and determining what actually works in practice.

pic4

8. What’s next?

Next is where the real work begins! We spent almost a year laying groundwork, doing research, optimizing the farming technology, raising money, and developing partnerships. Now, starting October 2016, we will begin our first official classes on farming and begin to put everything we’ve been planning into practice.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and check out our website and sign up for newsletter for more information!

Also, while MealFlour is working in the western highlands of Guatemala, we are really part of a larger, global movement towards sustainable agriculture  and edible insects. If you want to build your own farm at home and make delicious protein packed treats, find out how on our ‘DIY‘ page.

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Homemade chapati bread and macaroons, both made with mealworm flour from mealworms taken straight from our farm and grown by co-founder Gabrielle Wimer!

pic2

How to Use Fall Fruits and Vegetables

*Quick, upfront disclaimer: this post is based on produce that is in season across the USA. Sorry if it does not apply to all climates.

With the autumnal equinox upon us, it’s time to celebrate one of the best parts of fall: the food! In addition to the obvious favorites like pumpkins, butternut squash, and apples, autumn offers an array of other fruits and vegetables that can be used to make great healthy dishes or indulgent desserts. Given the purpose of our organization and the fact that there are plenty of recipe guides to seasonal produce out there (such as these for October and November), this post is going to focus on making the most of your purchases. That means finding a use for parts of fruits and vegetables that are typically disregarded and/or creatively using up produce once it’s no longer fresh.

fall-applesauceApples: Apples are best kept in the pantry.

Don’t toss apple peels: crispy chips, apple peel tea, or apple cider vinegar

If apples are getting old: applesauce, apple cider, or apple crisp

Beets: Store beets by chopping off the leaves and storing each in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Eat beet leaves within 2-3 days: frittata, pesto, or just saute similarly to kale or collard greens

If beets are starting to go soft, try: pizza crust, hummus, or chocolate cake

Broccoli and Cauliflower: These vegetables are very similar and should be stored in sealed plastic bags in the fridge.

Don’t throw out leaves: roast, smoothie, as a raw salad base, or try the beet green recipes

fall-grapesGrapes: Grapes should be stored in the fridge. Alternatively, they can be easily frozen to serve as ice cubes that will chill wine without diluting it.

If grapes are starting to go soft, try: grape pie, grape gazpacho, or grape vinaigrette

Parsnips: Treat parsnips like carrots – store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Use the whole parsnip, peel and all: honey parsnip bread, roasted with onions, or baked fries

Pears (Bosc and Comice): Ripen pears at room temperature, store in fridge once ripe.

Treat pear peels like apple peels.

If pears are going soft: pear crème pâtissière, pear butter, or spinach-pear soup

Pumpkins and winter squash: Store these fall-centric gourds in a pantry. Butternut and kabocha squashes should be peeled, but the skin is edible on other varieties.

Roast your seeds: cocoa, rosemary-sage, or sweet and spicy (or use them raw in muffins, granola, bread, etc.)

How to make pumpkin puree, which can be frozen.

 

Have a flavorful fall!

Eva

National Spotlight: Italy

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 5.1 million tonnes

Considering that food waste annually costs the national economy an estimated €12 billion, it is no surprise that Italy has been stepping up its efforts to save food from the garbage. Agricultural Minister Maurizio Martina has stated that he wants the country to recover one billion tons of excess food by the end of this year, and there are many new initiatives underway that could make his goal a reality.

italy1At the end of July, Italy’s senate reinvigorated the country’s food recovery policies by providing incentives for and removing bureaucratic hurdles associated with donating surpluses to charities. For instance, restaurants, retailers, and manufacturers must no longer declare each donation in advance but instead complete only one declaration for all donations made each month. Additionally, products can be donated after their sell-by dates; farmers can freely give excess produce to charities; and all food donors will be rewarded with tax reductions. Ministers hope that the law will save at least 1 million tons of food from going to waste each year.

The agricultural ministry has also been looking at reducing consumer waste. Much like France, Italy is home to strong anti-doggy-bag bias that stops many restaurant customers from saving the food they don’t finish in one sitting. The term ‘family bag’ is now being promoted to emphasize that leftovers provide families with delicious second meals and distance the idea from the negative connotation of dog food. Another campaign is researching new forms of packaging to preserve food better, especially during transit.

Unsurprisingly, Italy is home to many organizations that connect recovered food to hungry mouths. Rete Banco Alimentare is a national network of 21 food banks that redistributes donations from producers, restaurants, caterers, and retailers to nearly 9,000 charitable organizations throughout the country. The volunteer-based organization started in 1989 and, eight years later, launched National Food Collection Day, in which customers can buy food to be redistributed to charities. In 2013, more than 11,000 supermarkets participated in the annual event, allowing over 9,000 tons of food to be collected by 135,000 participants.

italy capreseAlongside government programs and charitable organizations, activists within the food industry are getting international attention for combating waste. Chef Massimo Bottura, head of the World’s Best Restaurant 2016 Osteria Francescana, made headlines at the Expo Milano and again at the 2016 Olympic Games for setting up soup kitchens that utilized excess food from the respective events to feed those in need. Another renowned Italian chef, Ugo Alciati, requires his customers to reserve at his restaurant and eat from a fixed menu to minimize the amount of food left in his kitchen at the end of each day.

Bravo, Italy! Dire di no a rifiuti alimentari.

Additional Sources:

Stephanie Kirchgaessner (The Guardian) – Italy Tackles Food Waste with Law Encouraging Firms to Donate Food