There is more than enough food in the world for everyone; Yet many going hungry due to factors such as waste and uneven distribution. However, we are forever coming up with better ways of doing things and the people trying new things deserve to be celebrated. Recently Fortune and Food & Wine identified top performers that are having a transformative impact on food in 2016 (the list is American centric so I’m sure there are no end of other innovative people around the globe!). My pick of their list is:
1) Emily Broad Leib of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinics is tackling the world’s food distribution and wastage problem by focusing on labelling legislation to make donating easier, with the ultimate goal of getting more food to those in need:
“For most foods the date on the label is about freshness, not safety,” she says. “There are no guidelines at the federal level and inconsistent ones on the state level that are not based on actual science. We want to make labeling laws clearer, so when people pick up a yogurt, they know when it’s OK to eat it and when to throw it out.”
2) Kavita Shukla of FreshPaper is helping to solve the food spoilage problem through her invention of naturally antibacterial sheets infused with herbs which keep produce fresh up to four times longer. A billion people around the world live without refrigeration, making this a global problem.
On a visit to India Shukla’s grandmother treated an upset stomach with a homemade herbal drink that included fenugreek. Years of R&D on similar mixtures ultimately led to her now patented product sold everywhere from Walmart to Whole Foods. Next up: specialized sheets for cheese, bread, and flour.
3) Emily Miller & Kimberly Jung of Rumi Spice are attempting to help both consumers and Afghanistan’s economy by harnessing Afghanistan’s underutilized abundance of the rare and very expensive spice, saffron:
“We wanted to help get them into the international economy,” Jung says. “This isn’t a charity; we’re literally giving these farmers a livelihood when we buy saffron from them.”
The resulting demand has led Miller and Jung to set up three more processing plants this year, and increase their harvesting team from 75 local women to 400. In 2015, Rumi accounted for 3.6 percent of the total foreign investment in Afghanistan’s agriculture and its ultimate goal is to work toward replacing the opium poppies in Afghan farmers’ fields (proceeds from which help fund the Taliban) with acres of saffron-producing crocus flowers.
4) Kristy Lewis of Quinn Foods is focussing on healthier, sustainable snack food availability. For example, her “pure pop bag” for microwave popcorn uses recycled, compostable paper that’s free of the chemical-infused linings common to other, similar products; and her “farm-to-bag” popcorn itself uses organic ingredients and puts the spotlight on growers. She thinks “food should be simple, honest, transparent, and convenient”.
While we may not all be inventors or scientists, humble innovators such as these prove that we are all capable of coming up with new and innovative ideas, as well as making small, positive changes within our own family life to assist with better food distribution and less waste.