How can we re-design a food system that supports farmers and the land, is truly healthy, and results in a life-supporting local and global economy poised to feed billions?
We’re amazed at what we found out researching these questions. Human innovation, ingenuity, and creativity seem to thrive when times are tough, and we finally recognize natures design constraints. Our blog this month shares cool stories of revolutionary food innovations sprouting up across the globe that are beginning to define a sustainable food paradigm by addressing world hunger, climate change, and turn food deserts into abundant nutrient oasis’…it’s happening, people!
Growing Food in the COVID Context
We humans invented Democracy and we went to the moon—testaments to human potential; yet in crisis it turns out that our survival depends, not on self driving cars or appliances that talk back to us in English and Finnish, but rather on the same basic building blocks that all animals require: clean food and water and washing our hands (that is to say, hygiene). The call is out to return there, to remember who and what we are; to pause (a different kind of action) and look back to what we’ve created and manufactured for growth and progress, and use our new innovative thinking, to get the basics—food, drink, exercise—right. How we do this, our purpose, is the “secret ingredient” or the magic, to make surviving/sustaining our compelling collective cause and lifelong endeavor.
Self-care, at its most generous, is the conversation between friends, companies, school systems, countries. Taking care of each other and our world. Sustainability as the “new normal” can redefine definitions of progress and inspire tremendous design and creative innovation. Small and big businesses alike know this more acutely now, as ESG investing is out performing standard investing during the crisis. Caring about people and the planet is the new competitive advantage for business. “We, the people”, care what happens to our world, our home. COVID points to the fact that human encroachment on wild land is bringing human contact ever closer to new life-threatening diseases. For growing numbers of people, a spot-light is shining on our economic and business as usual model. Our global economy connects us all. The time is now to design a life-sustaining economy. This is no longer abstract. COVID makes it real.
Inspiring Food Innovation Companies You Should Know and Support
There are five trends emerging in restaurants that we will once again leave our homes to dine in—likely, with greater elbow room. Pockets of sustainability-inspired venues have been popping up across our country and others; now the movement is inspired, bringing whole new tastes and smells, and acres and networks that create purpose and repurpose to what and how we eat food. There is a tacit understanding and trust between patron and establishment on the terms of their relationship. “Infusion” is not in the tiring details of self-conscious waiter’s recitations (thyme and whats-its in meat, pistachios in chocolate chip ice cream.) It is trust that the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) is infused in the fabric of the menus and how the business operates.
The meals we make and bring to our table require the same standards. We cringe at what we perceive as the inhumane acts of taking fins from sharks and throwing the bodies back into the ocean. We are care about where our food comes from and where it goes.
Our nomadic ancestors chased their prey into canyons and slaughtered them. It was their only way and they used every bit of the animals they caught. We are moving away from the mass slaughter idea and embracing the habit of using the whole animal once again. Restaurants and chefs are often personally connected to local butchers, farms, and fish nurseries.
Then there’s the “Beyond Meat” movement. London just opened its first “Meat Free Butcher Shop“. An in-store butcher, trained in plant-based cooking, will do live demonstrations of meat-free recipes and give tips to customers on how to create mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan dishes at home. Customers will be able to choose from 20 animal-free products, including the likes of BBQ-pulled jackfruit, chorizo-style Shroomdogs, meatless bacon, veggie ribz and Moroccan vegbabs. All purchases will be weighed and wrapped just like in a traditional butchery.
Composting our food waste is a successful end of life solution for farms and individuals, however, for grocery stores this is simply not done. What if we knew when food was going to spoil on grocery store shelves before it spoils? Spoiler Alert is a new company doing just that—using data to manage waste and unsold inventory so effectively that they are helping their customers feed the most needy as a result. “Since the start of our pilot program with Spoiler Alert, we were able to donate over 1.5 million meals over the last year” said Laura McCord, Executive Director of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at KeHE, a national food distributor.
ReFED is another food innovation company that has created a road map of 27 different ways to reduce food waste, while creating new jobs. Imagine that—no more Jobs vs. the environment grid lock! The organization has launched the ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund to quickly deliver vital funding to organizations that can rapidly scale food waste reduction and couple them with hunger-relief organizations.
Meanwhile, in California, the #1 agricultural producer in the US, amidst the COVID pandemic Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced an expansion of the state’s “Farm to Family” program, that will aim to address the disconnect between the state’s farmers — who, since the onset of the pandemic, are experiencing a 50 percent drop in demand for their mostly perishable food — and food banks, many of which are scrambling to meet skyrocketing demand from families in need.
The initiative will enable food-insecure people across the state to receive roughly 20 million pounds of fresh, locally produced food per month. Participants will receive fresh food boxes — each of which feeds a family for three to four days.
Upcycled Food —What?
“Upcycled Food” is not as bad as it sounds (we’re not talking mother birds regurgitating into their chick’s hungry mouths!). It’s a fast growing fledgling industry, which creates new, valuable food products out of the overlooked nutrients falling through the cracks in our food system. Imagine: vegetable stems turned into chips and leftover juice pulp transformed into granola to surplus bread (reborn as beer!). This spring, food waste prevention nonprofit, ReFed, released a census that said 11 such food companies existed in 2011. In 2017, there are 64 and counting. An amazing 400-and-growing upcycled products are currently on the market (according to the Upcycled Food Association—yep, there is one!)
An Upcycled Economy is Climate Positive
Last year, Future Market Insights produced a report in which it estimated that the value of the upcycled food economy was more than $46 billion, and predicted a five percent compound annual growth rate over the next decade. This is real money!
According to scientific and policy experts, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Project Drawdown, the world leaders on ranking climate change solutions, rank reducing food waste as the number one solution to the climate crisis.
According to the Upcycled Food Association upcycled food businesses are currently preventing at least eight million pounds of food waste per year, equivalent to millions of pounds of CO2 emissions prevented, and millions of gallons of water saved.
As the Great Depression era taught my grandparents to save and reuse everything, this same ethic is being recognized again in the era of COVID as a key driver of a new life supporting upcycled food economy.
Business innovation is leading the way, are you ready to get on a much more fun and creative merry-go-round and reinvent business as a force for good? Join us.
If you liked this and want more, join us by subscribing to our weekly eNews Get Real— an Innovation for Good mash up of marketing and lifestyle tips and positive news about cool sustainable brands and innovators changing business for good. Get Real inspires and offers practical pro-tips to help individuals and businesses increase their positive impact.
Live Creative Studio is a sustainable business, marketing, and shopping hub. Live Creative offers strategic creative for purpose brands; strategic sustainability for any business; and a curated sustainable marketplace for everyone to shop their values every day.