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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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5 Lessons from Social Good Summit

From September 21-22, 2014, I was at the Social Good Summit, organized by: Mashable, UN Foundation, UNDP, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 92&Y. Being around incredible individuals from all backgrounds was inspiring. Each presentation left me with new facts, and new incentives on why I am needed in the fight for a better world. There were five lessons that I took away. I want to share them with you. To inspire and encourage you to make a difference in your community.

 

feel.give.share.care.saynotofoodwaste.provide.sustainable.future1. We are feeling creatures that think.

You and me are fundamentally designed to FEEL first. Our Right brain helps us feel connected to energy and the people around us. Our Left brain helps us make decisions by categorizing all the information we receive. The world we have constructed favors our Left brain, to make decisions, to separate ourselves from others, and to be ‘right’. Our entire relationship with the world is based on how our amygdala is stimulated. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor discusses how we have the power to choose what world we want to see – the decision is within us. Watch her video from the Social Good Summit.

 

fear.scared.anxiety.depression.saynotofoodwaste.sustainable.happy.planet.people2. Fear cripples and prevents us from change.

When you fear a new situation, a person from a different background or tasting a dish prepared from same basic ingredients, but in a new way, you miss out on life’s valuable experiences. Instead of enriching your world, expanding your knowledge and enjoying the diversity around us, you remain stagnant. And nothing stagnant in life can survive. Change is hard, change is difficult, change requires commitment, and change is best done with others. But fear, it is a poison that we drink in the thought that it is a medicine that will help us, when all it does is paralyze. Here is a song for you dear reader, to break the chains of fear and embrace your own power!  Be proud for wanting to shape your world! Thank you Natasha Bedingfield!

 

collaborate.inspire.share.care.give.provide.saynotofoodwaste.happy.future.planet.people3. Collaborate, share and inspire.

One person can’t change the world, because the world is filled with 7 billion. Yet, what one person can do is inspire others. To do that, they must establish themselves as someone worth knowing and learning from. To do this, we must collaborate and share our knowledge. There are things that you are an expert of, that another person isn’t. But there are many things that you don’t know, which will take you years upon years to learn or discover, unless someone is willing to explain you the basics in a matter of minutes. Collaborate, share and inspire others to be the change. That’s what our responsibility is! And that’s exactly how these young talents reached their success! Hugh Evans, Caitlin Crosby, and Kweku Mandela.

 

nature.life.love.care.give.provide.saynotofoodwaste.sustainable.planet.people.happy4. Bring a ‘human’ aspect to climate change.

How does a plant feel? How does a butterfly struggle when it’s wings are wet? Why does an ant work so hard for its family? I have no answers to these questions because I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes. Since we compare and relate all the information given to us with our own experiences, it is difficult for us to relate to things we aren’t familiar with. But what helps is story telling. If we hear a story in which the plant, the butterfly and the ant are given human characteristics, and go through challenges we faced in our own life, we are able to put ourselves in their shoes. We become more understanding of their struggles. Conservation International and Edward Norton, along with other incredible actors, gave us such a story – Nature is Speaking. Now, we can know what water, soil and all other Earth’s elements are trying to say. Ready to listen?

 

time.people.share.care.give.saynotofoodwaste.think.be.happy.planet.people5. Time for talking ran out. It’s time for doing!

The planet doesn’t need saving, humans need saving! Our way of life is in jeopardy, and this struggle is about humans coexisting with nature. There are no jobs, no living on a dead planet, at least not for us. Organization and companies of all sorts have realized that our time for preserving our life here on Earth is running out. Even the Rockefellers will divest from fossil fuels! But the carbon particles we meant to stop at 350 have risen to 400! Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, said it best: “Nothing that we can tell them [world leaders and organizations], they don’t know. Nothing that we can tell them, their own scientists don’t know. The time for words is over!”. What are you willing to do, to preserve your life on this beautiful world?

I hope you found these lessons useful! If there is something you want to add, or share, feel free to do so in the comments.

Much love,
Hokuma