It’s a creative time in the food world – and not just in epicurean circles. With a focus on addressing injustices to our environment, to people and to animals, several of this year’s Hive companies are serving up alternative meals that are fresh, nutritious and unconventional.
One Simple Solution Addresses Three Big Problems
On the Menu: Excess but wholesome food that would otherwise be wasted by growers, manufacturers and retailers. This wasted food is used to cook up freshly prepared “grab-n-go” meals that are sold along with fresh produce and other grocery items at far lower-than-typical prices at Daily Table, an innovative nonprofit retail store. Daily Table’s mission is to fight hunger and obesity in America by providing truly affordable nutrition to the food insecure.
“I am #BreakingThrough traditional mindsets about nonprofits, hunger relief and food recovery while engendering dignity and building a community’s capacity for health,” says Doug Rauch, Daily Table’s founder. Explaining that the organization is “using one massive problem (wasted food) to solve another massive social issue (hunger/obesity),” Doug – formerly a president of Trader Joe’s – collaborated with “world class medical education centers and nutritionists to adopt nutritional guidelines that will ensure that every product helps our customers feel and be their best. This great tasting, nutritious food is offered in a friendly retail format ensuring that the entire process engenders dignity and a sense of agency.”
Asked how Daily Table evolved from an idea to the real-live supermarket that opened its doors in Dorchester, MA, on July 4, Doug responded that there were many “learnings.” To name a few: “When I learned that the issue of dignity was the number one reason a person didn’t apply for SNAP or use Feeding America’s services; or when I discovered that hunger in America is a shortage of nutrients, not calories; or when I wrestled with how to create a nonprofit that could generate funding (revenue) through delivery of its mission instead of for the delivery of the mission.” The word that brings it all together, he notes, is empathy. “It all flows from genuine care and empathy. It would be an empty shell without these.”
A Quest to Eliminate the Need for Animal Farming
The Main Course: A delicious, nutritious, environmentally friendly alternative to meat and dairy that comes directly from plants – but tastes better than the best burger an avowed carnivore has eaten. Next year, Impossible Foods will start selling its “Impossible Burger,” the first product in a line of foods that look, smell and taste like – while also delivering the pleasurable sensory experience of – animal-derived foods (meat, cheese and milk). But amazingly, these products are are created entirely from plants.
“I am #BreakingThrough technical and cultural barriers to a sustainable, affordable and secure global food system,” says Patrick Brown, a world renowned geneticist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University. Founder of Lyrical Foods and maker of Kite Hill artisanal nut milk-based cheeses, Pat’s latest venture was triggered by a realization that, even as the demand for meat and dairy products continues to rise, animal farming is “absurdly destructive and completely unsustainable.” He started Impossible Foods and raised $75 million to “reinvent the entire system of transforming plants into meat and milk.”
Only a few of The Impossible Foods scientists have worked professionally with food in the past; however, they have figured out how to extract materials from plants that can convincingly replicate the feel, the flavors and the satisfying texture of foods that people really want to eat. The result is better for animals, of course, but it’s also good for those of us who will be able to enjoy a great burger without the attendant guilt that comes from consuming high-fat foods.
Breaking Through the Way We Think About Food
Bill of Fare: Insects. They are a commonly overlooked and sustainable source of protein that, in many parts of the world, are considered a delectable delicacy. Aspire Food Group is working to advance responsible insect farming and consumption by developing culturally relevant business strategies and potential markets for these foods. They are also, simultaneously, educating rural farmers on the best practices of insect farming and helping them break into formal economies where a market for these foods already exists.
Aspire is “breaking through” in many and varied ways, shares Shobhita Soor, a founding member and the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We are #BreakingThrough the way we think about food and protein sources … the way we formalize an informal food economy … and the way we adapt traditional food practices on a global scale,” she tells us.
Shobhita and her partners found their inspiration as MBA students participating in the Hult Prize competition in 2013. Charged to develop a solution to address food insecurity, a member of her team “spoke to a physician who mentioned that he recently saw a patient who consumes insects in her native country, Columbia. Once we started looking into entomophagy there were several ‘aha’ moments, namely the understanding that many insects are highly nutritious and resource-efficient and that there is a real market gap in insect eating.” The realization “that insect-eating is a strong traditional practice for over 2 billion people in the world, but that they remain inaccessible in terms of cost and supply,” was when “we knew we were on to something.”
What’s most disruptive about Aspire, says Shobhita, “is that we are tapping into an extremely under-utilized resource that is familiar to 2 billion people in the world, yet virtually invisible to the rest. We are revolutionizing the way the majority of the world thinks about protein by working to make a traditional superfood more available and accessible through the improvement of its production, preparation and consumption methods.”
Bonus: You’ll have the opportunity to hear more about these innovative companies in the Food Fix session at TEDMED2015, where each of the three leaders will share more about their inspirations and hopes for feeding the world.