Below is the latest installment of 5 Good Food Ideas that are reshaping our food system:
- Healthy Fast Food Fights Autoimmune Diseases
- Capacity Building for Young Farmers
- Optimizing Food Stamp Applications
- Building the Silicon Valley of the Food Industry
- ReFED Launches New Tools to Combat Food Waste
1. Healthy Fast Food Fights Autoimmune Diseases: After her son Caleb was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, Cindy Frei changed his diet to one free of gluten, grains, sugar, complex carbohydrates, and preservatives. Through the experience Cindy and Caleb learned not only the benefits such a diet provided, but also the extent to which diet plays a role in the lives of the many other kids dealing with autoimmune diseases. They also noticed the social aspects of how to make kids more comfortable adopting such a specialized diet. In response, the mother and son team created Caleb’s Cooking Company to provide healthy and fun fast food meals for kids with autoimmune diseases. The company is preparing to launch its first line of fast food meals and is hosting a Kickstarter campaign to help get them there.
2. Capacity Building for Young Farmers: The midwest has long been an agriculture center for the US, boasting the largest concentration of farms in the country and second only to California in terms of crop and livestock production. As a result, the region makes for an ideal hub for future sustainable food production. Unfortunately, the economics of farming (falling crop prices, rising operating costs) and the startup costs imposed make it difficult for a new wave of young farmers to take up that charge. Between 2007-2012, the number of new farmers entering the profession dropped by 20%. The cost of land is rising at the same time that aging farmers are preparing to transfer 70% of farmland over the next two decades to a new generation. Will that land move to new farmers or to property developers who can better afford the high prices? Additionally, barriers to entry are high for organic and sustainable farming, where certification processes take longer and cost-to-yield rates are higher. A myriad of changes are needed to head off this coming crisis, including greater education, training, and access to capital. Nonprofits such as the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (Moses), and the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) have stepped up to provide training workshops, business planning resources, and, in some cases, matching funds. There’s also the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (Silt), which puts donated land into a trust and protects it from business use other than farming.
3. Optimizing Food Stamp Applications: The SNAP, or food stamps, program benefits over 44 million Americans, but the process for assessing eligibility is arduous and arcane. Because of that antiquated process, mRelief believes many eligible Americans do not receive this necessary assistance; in response, the startup develops user-friendly survey tools to help customers validate eligibility for SNAP and other government services. They want to eliminate the wasted effort that occurs when customers fill out endless forms only to find out they aren’t eligible. They also want to make it easier for those eligible to sign up and receive much-needed benefits. mRelief estimates that its suite of solutions can save the government time and money and result in a 20% increase in total income for beneficiaries. In 2016, the startup connected over 100,000 families to social services, while the year prior it connected 5,000 families. It currently operates in all 42 states where eligibility requirements are publicly available.
4. Building the Silicon Valley of the Food Industry: The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is a newly launched nonprofit that aims to strengthen and grow Chicago’s footprint as the country’s second largest regional food and beverage economic cluster (Los Angeles is first). The nonprofit is organizing the region’s big food companies (Kraft-Heinz, Mondelez International, MillerCoors), small and medium-sized firms, and representatives from government and academia to build a collaborative platform that will work on issues related to workforce development, food safety, innovation and technology, and business services. It also plans to launch a manufacturing institute that among other things will help train new workers and help existing industry employees acquire new skills to remain competitive. The network focuses on middle supply chain production and distribution companies and will not include the restaurant and agriculture sectors.
5. ReFED Launches New Tools to Combat Food Waste: ReFED is a leading organization when it comes understanding the impact of food waste and the tools and resources at our disposal for reducing the global food waste problem. The nonprofit has just released two new tools to help businesses and governments manage food waste across the supply chain. These tools are an extension of a lengthy report ReFED released last year — The Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent — and are designed to connect major stakeholders to each other and to relevant solutions. The Policy Finder, designed in collaboration with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, is an interactive map that allows users to navigate the myriad of state and local policies and laws related to liability protection, tax incentives, animal feed, and waste bans. The second tool is the Innovator Database which maps over 400 companies and nonprofits that are advancing food waste solutions. Users will be able search the database which is categorized by solution type, organizational status, and geography. ReFED will also glean insights and trends from the database that could help inform new, scalable solutions. Both tools could serve as valuable resources for identifying new opportunities for reducing our massive global food waste problem.