Below is the latest installment of 5 Good Food Ideas – ideas that are reshaping our food system for the better:
- Massachusetts’ Healthy Incentives Pilot
- Could Big Data Help End Hunger in Africa?
- Certified Transitional
- IKEA Targets Food Innovation With Startup Incubator
- China Building an Agtech City
1. Massachusetts’ Healthy Incentives Pilot: As part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the USDA allotted money to develop a pilot program designed to incentivize healthy eating under the SNAP program. Hampden County, MA was chosen as the site for that pilot which provides an additional 30 cents to SNAP recipients for every dollar spent on certain fruits and vegetables. A study performed by Abt Associates found that the incentive worked. Consumption of fruits and vegetables by those participating in the pilot was 26% higher than SNAP beneficiaries not participating.
2. Could Big Data Help End Hunger in Africa?: The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) was designed to detect early signals of emerging food crisises in Africa. The system collects streams of data – particularly related to malnutrition, which affects 1 in 4 people on the continent – and then uses machine learning to make sense of the data and improve accuracy. Currently there is no single, global system for collecting, tracking, and analyzing the various indicators of malnutrition. NEWS will provide policymakers with much needed accurate data to help inform decision-making. While the food and nutrition dashboards that display relevant indicators will be customized for each country and region, some potential common indicators include: changes in crop yields; climate, from weather extremes to long-term shifts; fluctuations in food prices; inflation rates; security threats and armed conflict; migration; urbanization; government policy; and disease.
3. Certified Transitional: This new label aims to reduce the regulatory costs for organic farmers, whose certification process takes three years. The Organic Trade Association, who developed the standards behind the National Certified Transitional Program (approved by the USDA this year), calls certified transitional ‘the on-ramp to organic.’ The hope is that the new certification will lower the barriers to entry for organic farmers and increase overall acreage across the country. While organic farming costs more than conventional farming to produce similar yields, the premium prices afforded organic foods is supposed to offset those additional costs. The problem with the certification and 3-year compliance process is that farmers incur those costs without benefiting from the higher prices. Certified transitional ensures these farmers can fetch higher prices for their produce during this compliance period. Kashi is one of the big name food manufacturers currently supporting organic farmers by recognizing and labeling certified transitional.
4. IKEA Targets Food Innovation With Startup Incubator: The Swedish home furnishing retailer launched a new incubator where it hopes to enlist startups to help solve the company’s biggest challenges, including food innovation. IKEA takes no equity in the companies it hosts; instead it wants to collaborate and co-create with those companies to solve problems. In exchange for entering the incubator, startups receive $22,000 cash, three months’ free housing, and access to IKEA innovation labs and scientists. Within the food innovation vertical, the retailer seeks startups with ideas around urban farming, healthy eating, VR food tasting, conservation, and sustainable sourcing.
5. China Building an Agtech City: The Sunquiao Urban Agriculture District was conceived of by architectural design firm Sasaki as a way to expand food production in and around Shanghai. China has always struggled with its decreasing amount of arable land relative to its size and population, so it’s no surprise that vertical farming has emerged as a solution to preserving and expanding the country’s food supply. Sunqiao is an ambitious solution in that it is no mere greenhouse. It will essentially be a 250-acre agtech city. Not only will food be grown in the district, but it will also serve as a site for people to live, work and shop. Sasaki will break ground on Sunquiao later this year or in 2018.