Archive for the ‘Storage’ Category


Innovation of the Month: Food Fermentation for Biopreservation

Pin It

By Brandon Pierce

Although the word “bacteria” is usually associated with sickness and disease, it is the driving force behind fermentation, a food process on which humans have relied for millennia. Some of the earliest recorded instances of fermentation come from East Asia where, according to William Shurtleff, founder of the SoyInfo Center, the process was used as early as 300 BCE to ferment soybeans.

Fermentation has been used for millennia to preserve and improve the nutritional content of foods. (Photo credit: the DIY Gourmet)

Fermentation historically has had two purposes. Foods undergoing the fermentation process went through remarkable changes in taste, basically allowing for the creation of new foods. Fermentation also served as a way to prevent foods from spoiling. It is referred to as a biopreservation method, or a way to preserve foods using beneficial microorganisms.

In biopreservation, beneficial bacteria are used to prevent food spoilage and get rid of harmful pathogens. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are probably the most commonly used due to their unique properties and because they are harmless to humans. As LABs compete for nutrients with other bacteria, they release antimicrobials that stop spoilage and inhibit the growth of potentially harmful pathogens.

In functioning as an effective biopreservative, bacteria do not necessarily have to also start the process of fermentation. Generally, bacteria are selected either for their metabolic properties, which cause fermentation, or for their antimicrobial activity, which is important for food preservation. LAB can be used for both.



Indian Food Policy: A Plentiful Harvest while Millions Starve

Pin It

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.”



Four-Year-Old Seed Vault Protects Hundreds of Thousands of Crop Varieties

Pin It

By Eleanor Fausold

Buried deep in a mountainside located in a group of islands nearly 1,000 kilometers off the northern Norwegian coast lies a vault charged with the task of safeguarding nearly three-quarters of a million seed samples from around the globe. It might sound like something out of a movie, but this seed preservation bunker is very much a real-life agricultural security project.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture has submitted seed varieties for conservation at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. (Photo credit: Neil Palmer, ICTA)

Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, a far-northern location that exists in total darkness for nearly four months out of the year. The vault serves as backup to living crop diversity collections housed in “genebanks” around the world and is designed to protect seed varieties from both natural and manmade disasters.  Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, explains that the seeds that the vault receives are crucial to preservation of global crop diversity: “Our crop diversity is constantly under threat, from dramatic dangers such as fires, political unrest, war and tornadoes, as well as the mundane, such as failing refrigeration systems and budget cuts. But these seeds are the future of our food supply, as they carry genetic treasures such as heat resistance, drought tolerance, or disease and pest resistance.”



BCFN webinar: “Food waste: how to reduce it from farming to consumption”

Pin It

By Arielle Golden

On May 23rd, 2012 at 5 PM CET [11 AM EST], The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) will hold a live webinar discussing food waste.

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition will host a webinar on food waste on Wednesday. (Image credit: BCFN)

More than 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide. At the same time more than a billion people do not have enough food. Food waste happens at every step in the food chain and and impacts food security, the economy, and the environment.

Speakers in the webinar include Andrea Segrè, Chairman of Last Minute Market and Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Bologna; Tristram Stuart, writer and activist, winner of the international environmental award, the Sophie Prize 2011, for his fight against food waste, and author of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet; and Jean Schwab, head of the National Food Recovery Initiative run by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).



Designing a Plan to Reduce Food Waste

Pin It

Nourishing the Planet is collaborating with a team of graduate students at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design (ID) to research the problem of global food waste. In February, the ID research team hosted a workshop in which participants shared photos and talked about their experiences implementing bottom of the pyramid projects in India, Thailand, and Africa.

An ID team member takes notes on a projected photograph of a Botswana farmer as Danielle Nierenberg shares her story. (Photo credit: ID)

This workshop, along with other design research and analysis methods, will be used to identify opportunities for addressing food waste in developing countries. Patrick Whitney, Dean of the Institute of Design, is the faculty adviser to the project. Whitney has published and lectured around the world on ways of making technological innovations more humane, the link between design and business strategy, and design for the bottom of the pyramid.

The result of the students’ work will be included in an upcoming e-book on food waste co-authored by Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg and journalist Jonathan Bloom. The report will highlight agricultural practices that aim to reduce post-harvest losses obtained through NtP’s existing research on food waste and insights from field experts.

Stay tuned for more updates on the report.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


American Wasteland: Jonathan Bloom on Why Food Waste Deserves our Attention

Pin It

by Marlena White

Jonathan Bloom recently discussed his book, American Wasteland at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD. The book highlights the economic and environmental costs of food waste, and how consumers and policymakers can play their part in reducing waste to protect the environment, fight hunger, and save money.

Jonathan Bloom discusses why food waste is a problem, and what we can do about it. (Image credit:

Why We Waste

Bloom estimates that as much as 25 percent of all the food Americans bring into their homes goes to waste. Why? In the United States food is inexpensive—thanks largely to government subsidies—and abundant for most consumers. And it is often served in large portion sizes that can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be consumed in one sitting. As a result, Americans tend to value food less than they did before food was so readily available and inexpensive, and throw it away more frequently. In addition, they judge the quality of their food based on aesthetics. “Appearance trumps taste,” according to Bloom, so many perfectly edible foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are discarded because they aren’t the right size, shape, or color.

Bloom also cites the loss of food knowledge as a primary contributor to food waste. “People don’t know when something’s good or not,” he says, explaining why people throw away food at home. Expiration and sell-by dates are used to fill this knowledge gap, but tend to be loose and often inaccurate indicators of how quickly a food should be eaten. Consequently, Americans discard a large amount of food that is completely fine for consumption.

Why Should We Care?                                      



Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

Pin It

By Graham Salinger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.

1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.

Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.

2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Empowering Impoverished Communities with Compatible Technologies

Pin It

In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet discusses how Compatible Technology International (CTI) is providing rural farmers with technologies—such as cool storage sheds and food processing grinders—to better help them harvest, store, and sell their crops.


To read about CTI’s work, see: Innovation of the Week: Empowering Impoverished Communities with Compatible Technologies.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Innovation of the Week: Improving Strawberry Nutrition and Storage with Alcohol

Pin It

By Jenna Banning

Global food waste is a major problem facing our planet. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately one-third of all food produced goes to waste. In the developing world, over 40 percent of food losses occur after the product has been harvested. But small farmers all over the world are using innovations that help to protect their harvests, such as using more efficient materials and implementing better storage and processing techniques learned through trainings.

Strawberries are very nutritious, and have been shown to help regulate body sugars, lower inflammation, and even prevent some diseases. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

One team of researchers from Thailand and the United States has been working on improving the storage abilities of delicate crops including strawberries, which are highly perishable and fragile. Strawberries are very nutritious, and have been shown to help regulate body sugars, lower inflammation, and even prevent some diseases. It is estimated, however, that strawberries can only be stored for two days before losing significant levels of these antioxidants and phytonutrients that make them so beneficial. Dr. Korakot Chanjirakul and his colleagues from Kasetsart University in Thailand, as well as scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ran tests in which strawberries were treated with ethanol, and then analyzed for storage capabilities. They found that ethanol helped to boost certain compounds in the berries, which helped to resist decay. This development offers great potential for strawberry farmers. By treating their berries with ethanol, they will be able to store their harvests for longer, thus improving their potential sales and incomes.



Love Food, Hate Waste: UK Campaign Promotes Understanding and Preventing Food Waste

Pin It

By Amanda Strickler

Food waste is a global problem. According to food waste expert and Sophie Prize Winner Tristram Stuart, salvaging 25 percent of the food waste from the U.S., the U.K., and Europe could rid the global population of malnutrition. And around the globe, rising global food prices and increasing income inequality are making it hard for many people to afford to feed themselves. New information on food waste and how to prevent it, however, is becoming more readily available and spurring responsible consumerism. In the U.K., the Love Food, Hate Waste initiative reaches out to consumers with a user-friendly website supplying readers with waste-prevention shopping tips, recipes for leftovers, and facts on global food waste.

Image credit: Love Food Hate Waste

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in the U.K. provides research and resources for waste management, recycling, and resource efficiency. In response to concern about rising food prices, food waste, and food security in 2007-2008, the U.K. government began a new campaign under WRAP called Love Food, Hate Waste. This campaign aims to give individuals in the U.K. insight into the problem of food waste, while also providing solutions to prevent food it from occurring in restaurants, schools, households.

The campaign’s website connects consumers to the food waste issue by providing facts about food waste in the U.K. This information, provided through research conducted by WRAP, empowers readers first through food waste education, and then by offering solutions to prevent food waste. WRAP has even generated statistics which quantify the carbon emissions impact of UK food waste: “If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.” Since most consumers have general knowledge of carbon emissions, presenting the impact of food waste—a lesser-known issue—in this light helps readers to put the topic into perspective.