Indian MealIndia runs one of the largest and oldest government-provided elementary school meal programs in the world. It provides the main meal of the day for about 120 million of the country’s most impoverished children.

In the past ten years, the country’s economy has improved, creating a new middle class and a league of millionaires. Yet according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, India continues to have more than 195 million chronically malnourished people—the world’s highest amount.

The tribal state of Madhya Pradesh is no stranger to high malnutrition rates. Local food activists and public health policy specialists proposed adding eggs to meal programs in order to supply children with more adequate nutrition.

In late May 2015, however, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivrai Chouhan, publically announced that eggs were not allowed to be served in Indian meal programs in some tribal states. Instead, he suggested that bananas and milk be served.

Chouhan is an upper-class Hindu and a strict vegetarian. He says, “the body is meant to consume vegetarian food, which has everything the human body requires.”

In a country of 77 million, over 50 percent of children in India are underweight, undernourished and are in desperate need of better nutrition. A meal plan offering bananas and milk is not enough to offset the calories and nutrients lost due to living in poverty.

Health experts and activists are calling this a class issue, one where politics and religion are being fought over at the detriment of starving children. Dipa Sinha is an economist at the Center for Equity Studies in New Dehli. He explains that vegetarianism “is a very upper caste Hindu sentiment” linked to privilege and wealth.

Many lower caste Hindus, like those in tribal states, do not eat vegetarian diets and would eat eggs if they could only afford to. Christians and Muslims living in India also rely on meat. Dalit officials, a part of a lower caste, claim that the ban on eggs is upper caste Hindus trying to push Hindu principles unto lower caste Hindus and minorities.

This would not be the first time. In the past, Jains, a politically powerful group of vegetarian Hindus, successfully blocked eggs from meal programs in states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This is despite the fact that caste discrimination has been illegal for centuries.

Jean Dreze, a development economist, says that banning eggs from these programs is a “missed opportunity” to provide much-needed nutrition and encourage attendance. It has been shown that when eggs are served in schools in impoverished states, attendance increases as kids scramble for the rare source of protein.

“They are easy to procure locally, and storage and transportation aren’t a problem,” explains food rights activist Sachin Jain. “No…vegetarian food item is that good a source of protein.” A popular alternative, milk, comes with complications. Many times supplies dilute it and it is easy to contaminate. Plus, rural communities in India lack proper refrigeration, storage, and transportation methods for milk.

Jain explains, “I am a vegetarian. I have never touched an egg. But I have other sources of fat and protein…Tribals, Dalits, and other poor people don’t have these options. They can’t afford these things.” Eggs then become the perfect solution.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, CBS News, WSJ
Photo: Pexels

Words like eco, organic, healthy, tasty, and sweet can be found in one single product: chocolate.

If the word “chocolate” is not sufficient enough, the other good part is that many of these organic chocolate products are also fair trade chocolate bars that are creating a social change and an environmental impact.

Besides being socially and environmentally good, there are some brands of chocolate who also donate to different humanitarian and environmental causes.

Here are six chocolate brands that are creating social change:

1. Madécasse

This is a social enterprise that makes chocolate products and vanilla in Madagascar. According to their website, Madécasse measures their success by the quality of the product and the social impact they make in Africa.

The enterprise started by empowering cocoa farmers in Madagascar, and by providing training and higher wages. The brand also creates an environmental impact by protecting around 70,000 cocoa trees, that are part of the habitat of over 65 species of flora and fauna, through cocoa farming.

Some of the chocolate bars that Madécasse sells are Salted Almond, Sea Salt & Nibs, Toasted Coconut, among others.

2. Alter Eco

According to the Alter Eco website, the brand is reliably delicious, socially fair, and environmentally responsible. They work directly with farmers that grow cacao, sugar, rice, and quinoa through fair trade and organic practices. Alter Eco assists these farmers by improving their food quality and their life quality.

Some of the areas that Alter Eco works on are fair trade relationships, development of programs, and the empowerment of women. The brand’s products have compostable packaging and are organically grown.

Despite of not being a brand that only sells cocoa products, Alter Eco counts with a variety of chocolates and truffles. Some of the chocolate bars and truffles available are Dark Brown Butter, Dark Quinoa, Dark Mint, Dark Velvet, Salted Caramel Truffles, Sea Salt Truffles, among others.

3. Divine Chocolate

Divine Chocolate is an entity co-owned by 85,000 farmers in Ghana. From Kuapa Kokoo, these farmers produce fair trade chocolate through the premium quality cocoa that Kuapa’s has.

The brand also works for women’s empowerment by providing opportunities to women in cocoa farming. Furthermore, Divine Chocolate improves access to information for cocoa farmers through funds that support the Kuapa’s radio program.

Some of the chocolate products that Divine Chocolate offers are 38 percent Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Truffle, Dark Chocolate with Whole Almonds, and 70 percent Dark Chocolate with Mango & Coconut.

4. Equal Exchange

Through fair trade, Equal Exchange counts with different natural food products offered to consumers. They work with small-scale farmers and their co-ops from different countries around the world, such as India, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Uganda, Chile, among others.

Some of the products that the brand offers are coffee, organic tea, organic bananas, fair foods, and chocolate & cocoa. The brand sells organic chocolate bars, chocolate mints, candy bars, cocoa, and chocolate chips.

Some of the chocolate options available for purchase are Organic Very Dark Chocolate, Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate, Organic Mint Chocolate with Delicate Crunch, Organic Baking Cocoa, Organic Spicy Hot Cocoa, Organic Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, among others.

5. SHAMAN Organic Chocolates

This brand of chocolate was created in order to support the Huichol Indian population from central Mexico. SHAMAN Organic Chocolates’ goal is to create good and ethical chocolate while they help this Indian population from Mexico.

The brand’s chocolate is a 100 percent organic, GMO free, it is fair trade chocolate, and 100 percent of the profits are donated to charity that supports three Huichol villages in Mexico.

6. Endangered Species Chocolate

Endangered Species Chocolate promotes global change by donating 10 percent of their profit to their partner organizations that support different humanitarian and environmental causes.

The causes that the brand’s partners support are the conservation of species, habitat conservation, and humanitarian efforts.

The brand pays for premium ingredients for their chocolate in order to make sure that cocoa farmers are being supported and helped, and species are being protected.

The products that Endangered Species Chocolate offers are Natural Cocoa Spread, Natural Hazelnut with Cocoa Spread, Natural Almond with Cocoa Spread, 60 percent Dark Chocolate with Lemon Poppy Seed, 60 percent Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Sage, 60 percent Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon, Cayenne & Cherries, Dark Chocolate with 88 percent Cocoa, and Dark Chocolate.

With many brands offering fair trade organic chocolate products, helping the environment, people and donating to charity can be a way to support many humanitarian and environmental causes, and contribute to the social change that these chocolate brands are creating.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Madecasse 1, Madecasse 2, Madecasse 3, Alter Eco Foods 1, Alter Eco Foods 2, Alter Eco Foods 3, Alter Eco Foods 4, Alter Eco Foods 5, Divine Chocolate 1, Divine Chocolate 2, Endangered Species Chocolate, Shaman Organic Chocolates, Equal Exchange
Photo: Dubaruba


“Genetically modified organism,” or GMO, is a popular term rampant in mainstream Western food culture. Being critiqued for being unhealthy and harmful to the human body, GMOs have gotten a bad reputation.

Many companies like Chipotle, 365 (Whole Foods store brand) products, and Annie’s products pride themselves in earning a non-GMO sticker from the Non-GMO Project, certifying that they have gone through the motions to avoid GMOs in their food.

However, although sometimes controversial in Western culture, GMOs are transforming the agriculture platform all over Africa. GMOs serve as an efficient tool to use when farming.

In all forms of farming, GMOs serve as a way to curb diseases from reaching crops and increase the number of crops grown. An organism developed in laboratories helps poor farmers to not only be efficient but to earn more money for their families.

However, putting the economic advantages of farming with GMOs aside, many are against GMOs because of the potential health problems they present for the human body.

Due to obesity, a lack of government oversight and harm to the environment, many are against the integration of GMOs in agriculture. Others have also accused those who have patented GMOs (like Monsanto) of only pushing them forward so they can make a profit.

A positive is that it helps to defend crops who are potential candidates for diseases. According to AAAS, GMOs “pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques.” But many, like the Non-GMO Project and Responsible Technology, suggest otherwise.

According to some, the use of GMOs can put money into the pockets of poor farmers, which, in turn, helps to eliminate extreme poverty. Their ability to provide food for those in their region would also help people who are not farmers. They would be able to provide food at a lesser cost.

However, should the overall health of people be sacrificed so they can eat consistently? Is the push for GMOs to be used really for the benefit of the poor farmers or the companies who have patents on them?

Perhaps GMOs should be used until those in extreme poverty have the ability to purchase crops that are less damaging to their long term health.

The debate over the use of GMOs on those in extreme poverty will continue to develop.

– Erin Logan

Sources: The Guardian, Non-GMO Project, AAAS, Huffington Post, UC Berkley, Responsible Technology,
Photo: The Guardian

usa food wasteWhat’s the number one risk to worldwide health? The answer may surprise you–it’s not AIDS or malaria, but hunger and malnutrition. One in nine people in the world do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. And yet, in countries like the United States, there remains a shocking excess and waste of food products that could be used to feed millions around the globe. As people become increasingly conscious about recycling and the environment, they should also take a moment to turn their attention to how much they put on their plates. The following points are seven eye-opening facts that shed light on just how extensive the problem of American food waste is.

1. Let’s Talk Calories

The volume of American annual food waste might be better understood in terms of calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that each year, a staggering 141 trillion calories are gone unconsumed. This is equivalent to around 1,300 calories per capita, per day. This is approximately the number of calories consumed by a small adult or child in a day, meaning that these wasted calories could go toward nourishing several hungry people.

2. Just How Much Food Is 141 Trillion Calories?

Not everyone likes to count calories, and even fewer know what exactly a calorie is. To put it in different terms, over a third of the entire U.S. annual food supply is wasted, a total of 133 billion pounds. That equals more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. Most everyone knows what pounds are, and that’s a lot of them.

3. Americans Waste Some Foods More Than Others

According to the USDA, the top three kinds of food thrown away in 2010 were dairy (25 billion pounds), vegetables (25 billion pounds) and grains (18.5 billion pounds). These are three of the essential food groups on the food pyramid.

4. The U.S. Navy Throws Away What It Can’t Fit In Its Boats

The government provides the brave men and women of the U.S. Navy with the food and drink necessary to make their sea excursions bearable, but sometimes it isn’t possible to get all the food that is given to them into the storage space of their vessels, which are often very small. One might suppose that when this happens the food is donated to a local homeless shelter or food bank.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Because the U.S. government could be held liable for any sickness that might result from the consumption of a donated food product, the Navy is forced instead to throw surplus provisions away. The extra microwave pizzas and cereal pouches might not seem like much, but this wasted food could be used to feed a family in need.

5. Americans Throw Out More Food Than Pretty Much Anything Else

Food waste makes up over a fifth of American garbage, and half of the waste accumulates at landfills. America tosses more food into the trash than paper, plastic, metal or glass—with 5 million tons as the smallest discrepancy.

6. Food Waste Hurts The Environment

The aforementioned landfills are filled with decomposing organic waste that produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. These landfills are the largest producer of methane emissions in the United States, making up almost a quarter of the total emissions, according to the NRDC.

7. On the Bright Side…

The amount of food wasted, not only by the United States but by other nations as well, suggests that alleviating world hunger isn’t a matter of producing more food. Instead, it is a matter of better managing the food that is already produced, by preserving it and distributing it more thoroughly. There is enough food to feed all 7 billion people in the world. It just needs to get to put in mouths instead of in the trash.

Katharine Pickle

Sources: NPR, Washington Post
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The State of Food Insecurity Report - The Borgen Project
An important aspect in the success of the Millennium Development and Sustainable Development goals is the recording of progress over time. The State of Food Insecurity Report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) helps look at the initiatives that have worked to sustain food security in developing nations. Focusing on hunger is the first step to ending poverty and maintaining sustainable development. By looking at economic growth, agricultural productivity and international trade, development can be improved according to what continues to work.

The State of Food Insecurity Report finds that “about 795 million people are undernourished globally, down 167 million over the last decade, and 216 million less than in 1990-92,” according to FAO. Although food insecurity has been declining, there is still a chance of stagnation if economic growth slows in Central Asia, Western Asia, and South Africa.

The Millennium Development Goals reach their deadline this year, therefore, new goals have been developed. The Sustainable Development Goals focus on innovative ways to eradicate poverty for good. One way the U.N. does this is to educate farmers on how to efficiently grow crops. This helps feed families in surrounding regions and provides income for farmers to help with economic growth. Taking a sustainable approach to food security, rather than exporting food, maintains the distribution of goods.

Although the report focuses on hunger, many aspects of development affect the result of food security in developing populations. The economic growth of a nation positively affects the nourishment of people in poor countries. However, the report also notes that “it also must include social protections, which include basic human rights and a safety net providing basic needs,” according to Deseret News.

Poverty continues to decline with the implementation of the MDGs and SDGs. Despite this, there still remain people in underdeveloped countries who experience malnutrition and a limited access to education. “The 2015 report not only estimates the progress already achieved, but also identifies remaining problems, and provides guidance on which policies should be emphasized in the future,” says the FAO. The importance of tracking the progress of development goal plans will help the U.N. come closer to completing its ultimate goal of eradicating poverty by 2030.

-Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization 1, Deseret News, Food and Agricultural Organization 2,
Photo: Dr. John La Puma

On May 28 of this year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization signed an agreement with the World Union of Wholesale Markets designed to reduce food waste and improve food security for the world’s urban poor.

According to the FAO, about one third of food produced for human consumption each year is lost or wasted. It estimates that over 40% of root crops, fruits and vegetables are lost or wasted, along with 35% of fish, 30% of cereals and 20% of meat and dairy products. This figure tallies up to an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food with an economic value of $1 trillion. These losses are quickly becoming concentrated in cities, where over half of the world’s population lives. Moreover, this figure will increase by 2050, as two-thirds of the people on earth are expected to live in cities.

Getting food to the urban poor is a novel challenge. Many low-income families live in “food deserts,” areas where there is no easy access to food, much less fresh food.

Eugenia Serova, head of the FAO’s Agro-Industry Division, said in a press release, “more efficient wholesale markets, and overall urban market outlets, can result in more affordable means to reach the city poor with healthy food.”

According to Ms. Serova, this new agreement is as much about learning how to deal with the future as it is about handling the challenges of the present: “If close to 90 percent of the expected increase in the global urban population in the next two decades will take place in cities in Africa and Asia, it makes much sense to build solid knowledge on how to strengthen urban market systems.”

WUWM has agreed to work with the FAO to tackle these challenges with an eye toward sustainability and inclusiveness.

Donald Darnall, a member of the board of directors of WUWM, said, “Some 60 percent of wholesale markets we’ve surveyed said managing food waste was their number-one challenge for the next five years . . . Our markets are embracing ‘good practices’ to reduce waste and we see this as an opportunity to develop improved waste management strategies and share solutions.”

The two agencies hope to develop a set of better practices for wholesale markets in urban settings. The goal is a more efficient flow of information and a dramatic reduction in food waste and loss. The partnership also hopes to improve producers’ access to markets, make food handling safer and more consistent and eliminate urban food deserts.

WUWM is connected to wholesale marketers in 43 countries, giving it access to an enormous amount of data. With this much data and expertise at their disposal, the FAO and WUWM are well on their way to finding new methods of improving efficiency, ensuring better quality of produce and ultimately cutting waste.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: UN News Centre, World Union of Wholesale Markets Seattle Pi Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
Photo: Flickr

The world is estimated to have a population of over nine billion people by the year 2050. Such a large number of people would require plenty of essential resources in order to stay alive. Food is one of those essential resources. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70 percent more food than is produced now will be needed to cater to this new population size.

Overpopulation is a legitimate threat to the well-being of the inhabitants of Earth. Our natural resources are being depleted more quickly; yet at the same time, we require more of those natural resources. We are playing all of our cards and not getting enough back to play again. At any level of overpopulation, people will always need food for sustenance. That is why research in sustainable foods is becoming more popular.

Impossible Foods is an organization set out to create and provide food that tastes great, is good for you and most importantly, does not have a negative impact on the environment or one’s health. Impossible Foods was started by a Stanford University scientist and has since grown in size to 50 scientists. These scientists look at animal products at a molecular level, and then select specific proteins and nutrients from greens, seeds and grains to recreate meat.

Impossible Foods is severing the connection between animals and meat. We have relied on animals to make our food for us in an unsustainable way. Impossible Foods found a better, more humane way of going about creating meat in particular. On its website for example, one can find a picture of an appetizing cheeseburger, crafted only out of plants. That’s right, both the cheese and the burger were made completely out of plants.

Progression in this field of technology can lead to solutions to the foreseeable overpopulation problem. Our current ways of providing food to the masses is becoming inefficient and is under performing. Companies like Impossible Foods are coming up with ways to increase our food production while maintaining the integrity of the land.

Erik Nelson

Sources: Impossible Foods 1, Impossible Foods 2, CNBC, Sustainable Solutions Development Network
Photo: Kickstarter

wastewaterThe idea behind a technology used to control pollution with algae may not be new but for the first time, scientists have found a way to efficiently implement this unusual system.  Aquanos Energy is now available and aims to produce high-quality water from liquid waste, using minimal amounts of energy.

The key to the advances made by Aquanos Energy lies in addressing algal blooms. Algal blooms are the result of an excess of essential plant nutrients into water. The higher concentrations of these nutrients cause an increased growth of algae and green plants. The term is often used when there is a rapid accumulation in the population of algae in a water system. As more algae and plants grow, others die and the dead matter becomes food for the bacteria. This results in what is often referred to as a “dead area.”

These blooms can be dangerous if the algae involved are toxic, however, researchers have come up with a novel way to control algal blooms and then use them to absorb these excess nutrients before they escape to other parts of the environment.

Researchers were unsure as to why other wastewater with algae treatments did not work in the past. They eventually came to the conclusion that the water which was used to test the methods in the past was simply not dirty enough. The recommendation reached as a result of these studies was that decontamination plants needed to be in shallow ponds and stretch over vast areas of land. Fortunately for people in dire need of fresh water all around the world, these recommended areas can be found in remote areas in developing nations.

Despite the impressive economic growth by developing countries such as India, problems produced by waterborne pathogens still amount to the cause of about 80 percent of illnesses. A huge part of this issue is the lack of wastewater facilities. Only about 20 percent of India’s communities had access to wastewater treatment in the past.

Traditional wastewater treatments require large amounts of oxygen for their biochemical activity. Supplying this amount of oxygen requires mechanical devices to provide air into the reactors to begin cleaning the water. Unfortunately, these devices demand huge amounts of electrical power, to which many developing countries do not have access.

A new technology developed by Aquanos Energy and further improved by World Water Works has succeeded in making conventional wastewater treatment plants available.

The technology’s concept captures the interdependent relationship between bacteria and algae. The process results in a 90 percent reduction in plant energy and reduces the operational costs of wastewater treatment systems by 40 to 60 percent.

The concept was proven effective and successful in a demonstration project and is now being launched in parts of India and Africa.

– Sandy Phan

Sources: Aquanos, World Water Works, Natural Resources Defense Council 
Photo: Flickr

food security
According to the World Bank, the world’s population is set to reach over 9 billion by 2050. With food security already a challenge, how will agriculture meet the food security needs of a much larger population?

According to Chris Brett, global head of sustainability at Olam International, food security success will depend on what he calls the ‘four A’s’—availability, accessibility, affordability and adequacy.

Availability, says Brett, will depend on smallholders’ access to land rights and financial support. Brett believes that policy-makers should look at ways to encourage lending, and increase the extent to which farmers legally own the lands that they cultivate.

As over 2 billion people depend on smallholder farms for their livelihoods, augmenting the smallholders’ ability to prosper could potentially go a long way to reduce poverty.

Banks, however, are unlikely to lend to farmers in disaster-prone areas. Farmers in such areas face the difficult choice between investing in safe but unprofitable crops, or riskier though potentially more lucrative alternatives.

According to a recent article by Gaby Ramm and Roland Steinmann, agriculture insurance presents a potential solution to the conundrum faced by farmers in risk-prone regions. Pilot study results suggest that insurance can indeed play a role in encouraging farmers to engage in more lucrative practices. In India, farmers with rainfall insurance displayed a tendency to gravitate toward cash crops, which—though vulnerable to rainfall deficits—produce much greater returns.

Furthermore, insurance can also indirectly allow farmers access to more credit, by encouraging lenders to lend with more frequency and confidence. This, in turn, leads to further capital investments.

Smallholders can also benefit from cooperation with large-scale agriculture. According to Brett, cooperation between large-scale and small-scale agriculture can be mutually beneficial, and can increase yields through pre-financing and training in skills such as inter-cropping.

Brett also notes that, while Africa’s agricultural potential is enormous, investments in infrastructure will be necessary for that potential to be fully realized. It is estimated that Africa needs $55 million in agricultural investment to guarantee self-sufficiency.

Parker Carroll

Sources: Poverty Action, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: WSJ

In Pakistan, 16 million families don’t have access to clean-burning fuels for cooking and heating. The result of this is increased health problems, especially for women and children. A solution has been developed by PAK-Energy to help reduce this issue. Ranked in the list of “10 Incredible Tech Innovations from 2014 that will Benefit Humanity” on the ONE website, PAK-Energy knows where the need lies and seems to be working towards a better alternative for people living in Pakistan.

Ali Raza of PAK-Energy has created a small, sustainable domestic biogas unit that produces biogas good enough to take care of a family’s cooking and heating needs. This biogas unit will also help the family save money by reducing the cost of fuel. The other benefits of it include reducing waste production and producing nontoxic organic residues that can be sold later on for fertilizer.

PAK-Energy has a vision that is committed to becoming part of a green revolution for Pakistan. It does this by providing energy solutions that are more cost efficient and better for the community like the one mentioned above.

So what is biogas exactly? Organic waste like animal manure, kitchen waste, agricultural residue and even industrial waste can be turned into biogas. This biogas can be used for cooking, heating, lighting and electricity generation for families. There are also economic benefits to biogas such as employment generation, industrial growth, additional source of income with fertilizer, rural development, low cost product and create a sustainable economy.

PAK-Energy has received a lot of recognition for its progress in helping the poor for example in 2011, it received an invitation from the Prime Minister of Turkey to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Also within that same year, it one the first prize in the Young Entrepreneurs Business Challenge in Lahore, Pakistan.

So far, PAK-Energy has made a big impact by creating seven pilot projects in Lahore, Pakistan. This helps families save money and it helps the environment as well. As a plan moving forward, PAK-Energy has a goal of 25,000 units to be installed within the next five years.

– Brooke Smith

Sources: ONE, PAK Energy Solution
Photo: Flickr