Yes! We Can Change the Food System

Yes! We Can Change the Food System
From, by Sarah Small

Young people and their innovative ideas have the power to change the food system. The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Young Earth Solutions! (YES!) program was established in 2012 to encourage young people—specifically, students under the age of 35—to develop innovative solutions to problems within the global food system.

Federica Marra’s project, Manna From Our Roofs, won BCFN YES! in 2012. Manna From Our Roofs is a pioneering way for urban eaters and entrepreneurs to grow, produce, and access food. According to Marra, her project fulfills two goals: “The first is making cities more sustainable, more livable places; and the second is finding ways to personally and emotionally involve other young people around what I call a new ecology of food.”

Manna From Our Roofs rescues abandoned city buildings and transforms them into multi-layered urban farms incorporating roof gardens, window farms, and edible walls. “I came up with the Manna From Our Roofs project to engage young people across OECD [Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries in an international network of activities combining education, communication, and business,” Marra told Food Tank.

In 2013 Makame Mahmud from Bangladesh and his team took the top prize with their idea, VALUE+. “BCFN YES! has given me the platform to generate an idea to ensure food security for the people living in the bottom of the pyramid,” Mahmud said in a BCFN article. VALUE+ is an integrated food network created to combat food insecurity in the urban slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The network addresses lowering food prices and reducing food waste.

In 2014, the contest’s theme was the Milan Protocol. The aim of the Protocol is to connect citizens and policymakers to address the issue of food sustainability through three objectives: the promotion of healthy lifestyles and fight obesity; the promotion of sustainable agriculture; and the reduction of food waste by 50 percent by 2020. Applicants must submit proposals based on one of these three themes.

Gianna Bonis Profumo from the University of Sydney, Australia, won the competition last year with her idea for Food and Nutrition Hubs. Through establishment of these Food and Nutrition Hubs, Profumo plans to empower and educate women while also combating rural malnutrition. The hubs will serve as nutrition education centers where women in villages can learn optimal feeding practices, how to grow vegetables, and how to prevent and address stunting.

Past BCFN YES! finalists have submitted ideas on more informative food labels, the incorporation of more plant-based meals into school lunches, apps to help consumers make healthier choices, waste-free technology for fruit and vegetable processing, and more.

The fourth BCFN YES! opened January 7, 2015; BCFN will be accepting applications until May 31, 2015. The contest is open to young researchers and university students under the age of 35, The finalists’ projects will be presented at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan, which will be hosted within Expo Milano 2015. BCFN Foundation will cover all travel and lodging expenses for finalists for the full duration of the conference. The team or individual with the winning idea will receive €10,000, and BCFN will post the names and abstracts of each finalist project on its website. Moreover, members of the finalist teams of every edition of BCFN YES! and the team winner of the “Best on the Web” award will become members of BCFN YES! Alumni, a group created to maintain BCFN engagement with young talent, while publicizing the latest research, disseminating knowledge, involving the public, and developing greater awareness of these issues. Through the Alumni group, BCFN aims to build relationships, highlight opportunities, and develop research projects with a multicultural and multidisciplinary approach.

The application deadline is May 31, 2015. Submit your idea today!

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