Feeding Fair, a hackathon addressing malnutrition, will kick-off next week at Milan EXPO and we are thrilled to be involved in such an exciting event. The project is a collaboration between the Future Food Institute and Food Innovation Program, as well as partners Up group and Action Against Hunger. With an international event focused on food right in our backyard, we saw an opportunity for global collaboration to address a large-scale, worldwide problem, using data and information collected through the WikiExpo project.
Students and experts from around the globe will come together to tackle some of the biggest issues surrounding malnutrition: obesity, undernutrition, food access, dietary habits and education. Creative thinkers will join forces in small groups on September 23rd to brainstorm, problem solve, and eventually prototype solutions to these global problems. The winners will go on to present their ideas at a special ‘Innovation Day’ organized by Up group in Paris, and after that, one member of the team will present their project at The Mont-Blanc Meetings (Les Rencontres du Mont-Blanc) in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France.
In the FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report, they estimate 795 million people globally, are undernourished. We are bombarded by discouraging statistics, like one person in eight goes to bed hungry each night and in some countries, one third of all children under five are underweight. Undernourishment is what we typically equate with global hunger, but undernourishment, while extremely significant, is only a portion of what needs to be addressed concerning global malnutrition.
Overnutrition is the other face of malnutrition that is growing at an alarmingly fast rate globally. A 2014 Bloomberg article puts the number of overweight or obese people at 2.1 billion worldwide, which means we are creating an increasingly unbalanced world when it comes to nutrition. While there is still dispute on how to correctly classify and understand obesity in global populations, there have been proven links to a risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and cancer. Malnutrition is not just a problem in and of itself, it is a slippery slide that spurs further health problems that come at a great economic cost.
Hacking food means diving into the roots of these big global problems and honing in on practical solutions. Bringing together innovation, technology, education and communication, Feeding Fair hackers will confront specific challenges inspired by real life problems. We took the time to speak with various pavilions around Milan Expo and ask them to share their perspectives on malnutrition. Interviews with directors of the South Korean, Swiss, German, Ecuadorian and Zimbabwean pavilions as well as Monaco, the Worldwide Agronomy Association, Alce Nero and Expo’s Sustainability Manager will be shared with hackers to help better understand the individual challenges they are presented. Challenges such as, “How can we introduce the idea of new nutrition sources (such as insects) into the diet?” allow opportunities to address malnutrition in innovative ways.
Along the way hackers will have the opportunity to pull information and inspiration from a dozen of speakers and mentors. These include experienced hackers such as Tim West, founder of San Francisco Food Hackathon and Nick Difino, food story-teller and hacker. They will be joined by representatives from Up group and Action Contre la Faim, all contributing different perspectives on malnutrition issues. Additionally, Feeding Fair will highlight some already successful young leaders in the food tech world that have successfully navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship and launched their own projects.
Stefania Abbona, CEO of The Algae Factory will share her company’s accomplishments in innovation and social responsibility fighting malnutrition. The Algae Factory was launched with the idea to partner with food industries to create new algae based food products that would target specific groups of consumers (ie. vegan, halal, gluten and lactose intolerant). Algae conveniently provides nutrients like proteins, fibers, and vitamins without the use of increasingly controversial animal protein or soy based ingredients. In fact, the FAO recently nominated spirulina, an algae form, as a valuable aid to fighting malnutrition. But the Algae Factory has gone beyond just producing alternative food sources, they have launched their Bite for Bite program which collaborates with global NGOs to match consumer purchases with distribution of algae based products in developing countries.
Meanwhile, Silvia Salmeri Co-Founder of Vivi Sostenibile is helping “cultivate passion” throughout Italy. With the four founding pillars of their manifesto being happiness, balance, belonging and development, Vivi Sostenibile launches social campaigns and group events to make connecting with our environments a valued aspect of daily life. By encouraging a sort of back to nature approach to everyday living, Vivi Sostenibile aims to create harmony between our environment and ourselves, and important aspect to understanding nutritional balance.
With food waste being the topic of year, it is exciting to hear that food waste management movements are spawning globally. At Feeding Fair, founders of two successful Italian projects, Last Minute Market and Last Minute Sotto Casa (Matteo Guidi and Francesco Ardito respectively) will be joining to share insight on how they are turning food waste into food resources. Last Minute Market links retailers, food shops and food producers directly with people and charities in need of food so that potentially discarded or wasted food can be put to good use. Active currently in 40 Italian cities, LMM is working to expand in Argentina and Brazil as well. By working on a larger scale to redistribute potential food waste, LMM hopes to help alleviate undernourishment across the globe.
Alternatively, Last Minute Sotto Casa uses a direct tech connection between shop owners and clients to create a network of immediate food distribution. Their platform allows shop owners to create alerts about availability of discounted produce that they are looking to unload. Consumers are notified through the platform, and are able to make effective purchasing choices at discounted rates creating a win-win situation for all. While many food waste apps target produce in specific, LMSC allows any food shop owner or producer to create alerts, so that items like soon-to-be-day old bread or cold pizza slices can be picked up and consumed by hungry citizens.
Chiara Cecchini, a Future Food Institute Master’s candidate and budding entrepreneur, will also join the lineup to share her recent experience launching FeatApp, an app dedicated to encouraging a better balance between healthy eating and daily exercise. The app helps individuals become accountable for their daily activity by rewarding them with virtual coins that can be transferred into real life food exploration. Chiara’s app demonstrates how technology can help bring awareness to nutritional balance, good food and daily exercise.
And when it comes to making the right eating choices, we are not just talking same old, same old. Giulia Maffei and Giulia Tacchini are looking to make entomophagy (yes, eating insects) a viable and attractive source of nutrients. The duo has launched a consulting, cooking, events and awareness campaign surrounding edible insects. Through Entonote, they are hoping to help break social norms in their home country (Italy) and beyond, and encourage people to understand potential for alternative nutrition.
Innovation in malnutrition means addressing a problem from every angle. It is just as much about communication, as it is about technology, resource distribution and education. We’re excited to see how the hackers of Feeding Fair can deeply explore the global issue of malnutrition to make for better understanding and innovative solutions. Good luck and happy hacking! If you are in the Milan area and would like to participate, sign up online at the Eventbrite page.
UNIMORE - University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
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Phone: + 39 0522 522311
UNIME - University of Messina
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Phone: + 39 090 6761
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