Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

Aug20

At Back-to-School Time, Let’s Press for Healthy Eating

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Check out our latest op-ed about improving school meals and students’ eating habits, published in The Montreal Gazette. The Gazette is the largest English language daily in the province of Quebec, and has a weekly print circulation of 1,094,653.

It’s almost time for kids to go back to school. But for many children in Montreal, this means a return to unhealthy school lunches that jeopardize their health and well-being. Schools can play a key role in reversing this trend and reinforcing healthy eating behaviors.

Read the full article here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Aug13

15 Innovations Making School Lunches Healthier and More Sustainable

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By Seyyada A. Burney

As summer draws to a close, it’s time for kids to go back to school. Sadly, this often means a return to terribly unhealthy school lunches filled with fried chicken, pizza pockets, sugary drinks, and high-calorie snacks. School food can  jeopardize the health and well-being of America’s next generation, but fortunately, it’s also the best place to start addressing the obesity epidemic—one in three children is obese or overweight, increasing the risks of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems later in life. This needs to change.

Fostering healthy eating habits at a young age is critical to life-long health. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) feeds 32 million kids every year and is expanding rapidly as more families qualify for free or reduced-price meals. These lunches represent the primary source of nourishment for many children, but few schools have the facilities or the know-how to prepare fresh food—only the ability to reheat froze, processed foods high in sodium and fat. Even cafeterias that serve more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are often forced to subsidize programs using vending machines and snack bars loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup due to fiscal deficits and a lack of student interest.

As kids head back to school, Nourishing the Planet outlines 15 innovative ideas and programs that are making school lunches healthier and more sustainable.

1.         Higher nutrition standards: Under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can finally set nutritional requirements for school lunches—a measure they implemented earlier this year. First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently unveiled new national standards for school meals—the first in fifteen years. They require daily fruit and vegetable offerings; more whole grains; only fat-free or low-fat milk; and reduced saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium in school lunches.

2.         Cooking from scratch: Contrary to past privatization and outsourcing trends, a University of Michigan study reported that privately managed cafeterias have few economic advantages. Their food options are also more likely to be processed, with higher sugar, fat, and sodium contents and relatively few fresh vegetables. In recent years, entire school districts such as Minneapolis have introduced locally sourced salad bars and have shifted to more on-site preparation in order to serve kids fresher, more nutritious food.

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Aug07

Five Cities and the Organizations That are Making Them Green

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By Jenny Beth Dyess

Currently over half of the world’s 7 billion live in urban areas and according to the United Nations (UN), that number is expected to reach 65 percent by 2050. Dramatic population growth strains food resources and raises the challenge of feeding urban dwellers, particularly the poor. According to the UN, poverty is now growing faster in urban areas than in rural areas—there are currently 1 billion people living in urban slums.

Urban agriculture is cropping up in major cities worldwide. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five cities and the organizations that are helping these cities become food-sufficient.

1. Dar es Salaam: Over 45 percent of Tanzania’s 2.3 million unemployed people live in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. Studies by the Tanzanian Department of Rural Development and Regional Planning have found that there is significant reduction in poverty among residents who practice urban gardening in Dar es Salaam. In 2011, 68 percent of residents are growing food and raising livestock in the city. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 90 percent of vegetables and 60 percent of the milk supply are produced locally.

Dar es Salaam in action: The Mikocheni Post Primary Vocational School is training students how to make a sustainable living and grow food in the city. The vocational school has become a learning center for waste separation, composting, and urban farming. The composting chambers are built by the masonry students, the cooking and carpentry students contribute organic waste to the compost, and all students take turns attending the gardens. The school also offers free training seminars on composting to the local community.

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Aug04

Saturday Series: An Interview with Rowen Jin

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By Seyyada A Burney

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Rowen Jin is a Project Manager for World Water Relief in Haiti. (Photo credit: Rowen Jin)

Name: Rowen Jin

Affiliation: World Water Relief

Bio: Californian Rowen Jin recently graduated from Swarthmore College as a Biology major and an English minor. She immediately fell in love with Haiti during her first visit in the summer of 2011 for  earthquake relief work. After making a career change from research to health-related development work, Rowen returned to Haiti in 2012 as a Project Manager for World Water Relief.

She speaks fluent Chinese and is conversational in Haitian Creole and Spanish.

Almost one-sixth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water. How are World Water Relief’s projects alleviating this deficit?

In 2009, Kevin Fussell, MD, one of the founding members of World Water Relief and our current Board president, personally witnessed and recognized a need for safe drinking water in Batey Siete, Dominican Republic. Bateys are communities of largely Haitian sugarcane field workers throughout Dominican Republic. Many of these batey communities are underdeveloped and underfunded by the Dominican government because they are predominantly Haitian. We’ve been working ever since 2009 to help the situation on the island of Hispaniola. For most of our projects, we implement the school model of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). We construct drinking and hand-washing stations at schools, improve sanitation facilities, and conduct hygiene education courses. Through this approach, we hope to bring more comprehensive changes to the communities where we have projects. The key to our success is that we recognize our limitations and know our strengths.  We know we can have a positive effect on small communities and school populations if they meet a set of criteria that we have established, including community support for the project, a source of water, school administrators who want us to be there, etc.  We bring an understanding of the culture and language (all of our project managers speak the language of the countries we are serving) and a respect for the opinions of the people.  This is our formula for success.  We don’t necessarily look at the whole country’s population. We focus on those we know we can help. The specific areas where we are working have no voices other than among themselves.

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Jul25

Citywatch: Traffic Jam Blues Aching to be Solved by Main Street Food Stores

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. Click here to read more from Wayne.

Toronto has the worst traffic congestion in North America. (Photo credit: Synergy Merchant Services)

Going for a drive along a nearby street isn’t my usual idea of a good conversation starter or a way to get to know someone, but it was all for a good cause, so I gave it a try—and ended up seeing the internal workings of my main street for the first time.

My assignment was to drive home my idea of a new strategy for fighting traffic congestion in Toronto, a city which regularly wins every booby prize in the books for the worst traffic congestion in North America. I got to do this during an in-car interview with Tanner Zurkoski, who has to stay in his car all-month except for brief bathroom breaks.

An aspiring filmmaker, Tanner got a one-month gig with Evergreen, the city’s leading urban sustainability group, as a stunt man whose time in the car would dramatize how much life is taken out of us while we’re going nowhere fast in a traffic jam. The average daily work commute in Toronto and area takes 81 minutes. It takes over two months of salary for reasonably well-paid people to pay off the US$9000 it costs to own and run a car for a year in Toronto.

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Jul11

Indian Food Policy: A Plentiful Harvest while Millions Starve

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By Keshia Pendigrast

According to a recent New York Times article, agriculture policy in India is shaped by two central goals: to achieve higher, more stable prices for farmers than they would normally achieve in an open market, and to distribute food to the poor at lower prices than is available from private stores. India ranks second in the world in agricultural output, and the sector employs 52 percent of the labor force. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished, double the rate of countries like Vietnam and China.

Sacks of rice that have suffered decay and weather damage. (Photo credit: New York Times)

India’s technical innovations and generous wheat subsidies have lead to massive success in the production of rice and wheat. According to a Reuters article, in 2011 Indian Food Minister K.V. Thomas said that wheat and rice exports would only cease after they had reached 2 million tons. August 2011 brought Indian wheat stocks over 35.87 million tons, substantially higher than its target of 17.1 million tons, set for the July-September quarter. Government warehouses were overwhelmed with over 25 million tons of rice.

But according to a World Bank study, only 41.4 percent of food stocks in warehouses reached Indian homes.

“It’s painful to watch,” said Gurdeep Singh, a farmer near Ranwan India, in an interview for the New York Times. Singh recently sold his wheat harvest to the government. “The government is big and powerful. It should be able to put up a shed to store this crop.”

“The reason we are facing this problem is our refusal to distribute the grain that we buy from farmers, to the people who need it,” said Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court on the right to food, in an interview for the New York times. “The only place that this grain deserves to be is in the stomachs of the people who are hungry.”

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Jun15

De Schutter Highlights the Importance of a Rights-Based Approach to Food Security

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By Olivia Arnow

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,  spoke yesterday at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) about the “right to food.” According to De Schutter, a rights-based approach is crucial in attaining global food security, particularly in developing nations.

Olivier De Schutter has been instrumental in building discussion about the right to food. (Photo credit: Oxfam)

Addressing recent developments in the right-to-food movements in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, De Schutter described the potential of a rights-based approach in replacing the current supply-and-demand model. This approach is not just about availability, but requires that we pay attention to both food accessibility and adequacy.

By regulating private actors and de-emphasizing state power, De Schutter believes that populations can protect their right to food. “I believe that accountability, participation, and empowerment are absolutely key ingredients in the success of food security strategies,” he said.

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Jun11

Food for All: How to Respond to Market Excesses

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On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his or her views on how to fix the broken food system. If you live in NYC, you can register to attend for FREE by clicking HERE, or tune in on the 28th via livestream. We will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

Raj Patel argues that climate change, financial speculation, and other factors have disrupted the food system. (Photo Credit: Rajpatel.org)

In his introduction to a chapter in the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s new book, Eating PlanetNutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, award-winning writer, activist, and academic Raj Patel describes five reasons for the multiple failures of today’s modern food system and suggests important policy responses.

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight and another 1 billion are hungry. Both problems are signs that while the current food system has worked to produce calories and profit, it has failed to nourish the world. According to Patel, there are five reasons why the food system has come up short:

1. Climate Change. Global weather has been unpredictable, with storms, floods, and droughts occurring with greater intensity and frequency than in the past. These weather patterns have reduced global wheat harvests by 5 percent over the past 30 years.

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Jun08

Ford Foundation leads discussion on Sustainable Cities at Rio+20

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By Seyyada A Burney

From New York to Kuala Lumpur, cities are sites of rapid economic growth and mass consumption.  Despite this, governments and NGOs around the world are increasingly concerned about whether cities, by their sheer size and the economic and social relations they foster, and urban growth are sustainable.

High property values and unemployment have led to rapid slum development in many cities. (Photo credit: Cityform Network)

The Ford Foundation, a private New York-based foundation that supports programs encouraging democratic values, education, and economic and social progress, is working to promote a vision of inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development in cities. On June 17 and 18 it will host side events, entitled ‘The Just City’, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development where leaders and innovators such as Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, Joan Clos, Director of UN-Habitat, and Jeb Brugmann, founder of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, will gather to discuss the opportunities and challenges afforded by sustainable and inclusive urban development.

Discussions will focus on individuals, areas, or programs contributing to equality and integration in cities, such as public transport or participatory urban planning, and will also identify some of the common barriers they face when trying to expand, or scale up, such initiatives.

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Jun07

Innovation of the Week: Multifunction Platforms

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By Sheldon Yoder

In rural villages in East and West Africa, electrical connections are humming and light bulbs are shining for the first time in homes that only knew candlelight before. Although no power lines yet reach these villages, multifunction platforms (MFPs) are filling the energy void, powering not just lights but machines that lessen the drudgery of farmer’s work.

Multifunction platforms can be used to run food processing equipment in remote villages. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

What is the multifunction platform? Though the name sounds a bit daunting, the MFP is basically a stationary diesel engine that can be attached to about anything that rotates: grain milling and husking machines, water pumps, and power tools. The MFPs are quiet, 6 to 8 horse power, 750-lb Listeroid engines and their basic construction and features have not changed significantly since their debut in the 1930s. The engine has more than proven its durability, efficiency, and hassle-free maintenance over the years. Their efficiency and raw power make them perfectly suited for continuous electrical generation and work.

With MFPs farmers can mill their own corn and wheat for food and sale, while earning income by processing the crops of neighboring farmers. Members of cooperatives can run mechanical tools, power rural electrical grids, and soon it is hoped, irrigate crops with the machines.  Organizations working with the platform have paid special attention to women users, hoping to free up several hours per day that can be devoted to other priority tasks.

The first MFPs were installed in Mali and Burkina Faso in 1994 by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began to install MFPs in 1996 and the project is still ongoing, having expanded to include other countries in West Africa. To acquire the platform, a group of men and women from a village usually create a formal organization to request and purchase a generator. The cost is usually subsidized between 40 to 50 percent  by the UNDP. Residents are given training and then placed in charge of installation, maintenance, and repair of the platforms.

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