Food security is a global issue that will only become more prevalent with our growing population. Our primary aim is to initiate a solution addressing malnutrition across the food security spectrum, for those with too much food as well as those with too little. To accomplish this we will certify products and organizations in the developed world which make a positive impact on local nutrition (appropriate portion sizes, nutrient density, etc.). A portion of the proceeds generated from purchase of certified products will then be directed towards our certified partner organizations in the developing world. These organizations will be selected for certification based on their exemplary performance in addressing food insecurity, on the ground, where it matters most. In this way, the confusing milieu of action that people can take to make a difference is simplified and presented in a way in which anyone can participate. Consumers make a healthy choice for themselves with the added motivation that their choice is certified to make a difference for others.
CrOpportunity will certify products, services, and efforts which address food insecurity in both the developed (obesity) and the developing (hunger) world. Specifically, developed-world products which address malnutrition (such as obesity or nutrient deficiencies), above and beyond conventional practices will be certified as “Food Secured”. This certification, authenticated by a recognizable logo, simplifies identification of and partnership in a solution to the overwhelming food security problem, creating a pathway for consumers to become participants. The logo will attract additional consumers, generating additional profit for the restaurants, grocery stores and local food suppliers with these certified products. A portion of the profits generated will then flow to partnering organizations in the developing world, certified for their exemplary work in addressing the roots of food insecurity and malnutrition (hunger, nutrient deficiencies). We thus generate a reciprocating flow of information and resources while addressing food security issues for both the developed and developing worlds.
1. Background, relevance and motivation
Food security is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing the planet today and for the foreseeable future. The facts and figures surrounding food security often used to try and bring the problem into sharper focus can leave us overwhelmed and confused. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that 9 billion people will call this planet home by 2050 and one billion of our current population go to sleep hungry every night. Most, if asked, would want to do something to help, but frequently don’t know what that ‘something’ is. Solutions to these problems exist, and many are being put into action now. We are hopeful about the future and want to contribute to these solutions.
AGRIC summarizes our mission:
[A]ddressing malnutrition, that is obesity and hunger, through simple solutions connecting developing and developed worlds
[G]enerating and rewarding transparency, excellence and efficiency in global food initiatives
[R]efining the options available to consumers looking to make a difference
[I]nciting social change, raising awareness
[C]reating solutions which benefit both those with too much food as well as those with too little.
3. Project Details
The project is divided into three distinct yet interrelated strategies: certified consumer-product branding, partner-organization branding, and education. Three fundamental assumptions underpin each of the strategies:
1) Consumers are naturally inclined to make choices that will contribute to food security and make a difference in developing and developed countries, particularly if these choices involve things they participate in on a regular basis.
2) There are many excellent non-profit organizations actively combating food insecurity. We should not seek to replace or add to these, but rather support them. Such organizations will henceforth be labeled as FSO’s (food security organizations).
3) Two primary reasons for the minimal involvement and paralysis from the developed world are either: 1). a lack of education and awareness or 2). Overwhelmed with the size of the problem and the possible solutions. Consumers educated in food insecurity will be more motivated to make a difference.
3.1. Consumer-product branding
CrOpportunity will develop a “certification brand” (CB) which we will use to certify food products meeting the criteria outlined in section 4.1. The fundamental premise is that consumers are inclined to make choices that will contribute to food security and make a difference in developing and developed countries. However, the average consumer is not only ill-informed regarding global issues of food sufficiency, but is also inundated by marketing campaigns attempting to convince the consumer to choose one product above another. The CB informs the consumer that the certified product was prepared in a socially responsible way that both improves local food security and impacts global food security, making it easier for the consumer to recognize the responsible choice to make. Through certification and policing of our brand, we thus remove the “burden of proof” from the consumer and ask them to trust the judgment of our organization. In this, our values of integrity and excellence are essential. Revenue generated by the branding will be directed towards FSO’s.
Initially, we will focus on three types of products to be certified by the CB: restaurant items, community supported agriculture farms (CSA’s) and grocery store items. Consumers will identify certified products by our CB logo. Products that consumers buy from markets will be identified by a small label showing the CB logo, while restaurant items will be marked by the CB logo on the menu.
3.1.1. Restaurants items
Restaurants may provide the option to purchase certain items at the original cost, but with reduced portion sizes. A percentage of the profit will be directed towards FSO’s. This strategy not only provides a source of income to the FSO’s, but also serves to educate the developed world in terms of appropriate portion sizes, affecting both food security and obesity.
3.1.2. Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSA’s)
Generally, a CSA is supported by people who buy shares in the farms harvest at the beginning of the season. The investors then receive produce from the CSA throughout the season. The CSA model encourages local food production/consumption and typically seek to employ sustainable agricultural practices. Certified CSA’s will give people the option of purchasing food secure shares at a slight price premium to traditional shares with the additional income going to support FSO’s.
Once again, our CB will serve to assure consumers that the CSA is acting with integrity and responsibility. The CB is used to brand the CSA as a whole, not the individual food products. In order to be certified, the CSA must meet the criteria outlined in section 4.1 and also invest a small percentage of its income in our group, which will be redirected funds towards the certified non-profit organizations.
3.1.3. Grocery store items
Grocery store items may also be branded with the CB if they meet the criteria in section 4.1. Instead of requesting a percentage of the income generated by grocery store items bearing the CB, we will charge the manufacturers a fixed amount to be certified. This will serve as our primary source of income in the long term.
3.2. Partner-organization branding
We will develop a “partner brand” (PB) used to identify certain organizations actively combating food insecurity. The fundamental idea is that there are many excellent organizations, each with a unique and important take on the problem. The issues surrounding food insecurity will not be solved by a single idea, but rather many ideas tackling the various facets of the problem. Instead of adding or replacing the FSO’s already making a difference, we will support them to ensure the good work they are doing is continued and improved upon.
However, the multitude of FSO’s also makes it difficult to choose an organization to support. While many organizations appear to have good objectives, the general public is often not informed enough to differentiate the truly exceptional organizations from the rest. Our PB will help the public refine their choices when partnering a non-profit. We will only choose five FSO’s per year to bear the PB, thereby making the brand a prestigious distinction. The five FSO’s will be featured on our website. An FSO must adhere to the criteria outlined in section 4.2 to be awarded the PB. This exemplifies our values of accountability and excellence, in that we only support FSO’s making a real difference in a transparent manner. Lastly, we will choose five FSO’s that are addressing different components of food insecurity, such that many of the issues (water supply, local production, education, etc.) are represented.
We will seek to educate the public regarding food security, as we believe that consumers will make more responsible choices if they are aware of the issues. Our website will serve as our primary means of delivering information. Each of the FSO’s bearing our PB for the year will be required to supply information in various forms (e.g. statistics, multimedia, research, etc.). The information will be compiled and packaged by a team of media experts in a way that is accessible and interesting to the public, by means of videos, animations and infograms. Anyone looking for more information regarding FSO’s and food security in general will find it at our website.
Additionally, we will actively drive users towards our website through our CB. In section 3.1, we indicated that profits generated by the CB will be directed towards the selected FSO’s. We will enable consumers who buy CB labeled products to choose the FSO receiving the support. Consumers select FSO’s through a voting system. Whenever a consumer buys a CB labeled product from a restaurant, they will scan a QR code provided with the receipt using their smartphone (a numeric code will be provided for users without smartphones). Similarly, the barcode (or associated numeric code) on grocery store items can be used. Consumers supporting CSA’s will also be provided with a numeric code. Each time a code is scanned or entered, it provides the consumer with a number of votes, which they may use on the website to direct the funds generated by a specific restaurant, CSA or grocery store item. This is best explained by an example.
John Doe has an account on our website. He supports his local CSA, visits his favourite restaurant where he chooses CB labeled items on three separate occasions, then buys CB labeled asparagus and ground beef from his local grocery store. He scans the QR code with each purchase at the restaurant and the barcodes on the CB labeled grocery store items. He then returns home and visits our website. First, he enters the numeric code provided to him by his CSA. This gives him one vote to help decide where all funds generated by the CSA will go - he decides to vote for FSO #1 (a group providing drought resistant crops to farmers in Kenya). Next, he visits his account page and sees that he has three votes to cast to determine where all proceeds generated by his local restaurant will go, and two votes for his grocery store. Using his restaurant votes, he again chooses FSO #1, but decides to add some variety with his grocery store votes. He visits the information section of our website and, after reviewing the provided material, decides that FSO #4 is doing an excellent job of educating landowners in small acreage farming. He then uses his grocery store votes to support FSO #4. At the end of the month, he returns to the website, to see that the other members of his CSA also supported FSO #1: together, the CSA contributed $300. However, the patrons of his restaurant preferred FSO #5 (which got the majority of votes), all the money generated by the local restaurant ($1000) gets donated to a group digging wells in Mali. Finally, it seems that most of the shoppers at his grocery store agreed that FSO #4 is an excellent choice and $1800 was donated towards agricultural education. We then provide the website analytics to our various FSO’s, showing them that most people who visited our website and viewed all the available information chose FSO #4. The data provided helps the FSO’s adjust their own marketing campaign.
4. Branding criteria
4.1. Certification brand criteria
To carry our certification brand will require more than donating money for improving food security. As we develop our third-party certification these are some of the things we will be considering.
● Support local food
- Certified companies must show commitment to provide an increasing amount of their food products from farms and ranches within 200-400 miles.
● Healthy or reduced portion sizes (Restaurants)
● Local producers utilize sustainable agriculture practices (CSA, Farms)
- Build the soil through use of cover crops, minimal tillage, etc. to improve organic matter.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize pesticide use
- Maximize water use efficiency
● Minimize food waste
● Encourage food security education and awareness
4.2. Partner brand criteria
To be a certified partner these are some of the criteria we will evaluate.
● Sustainable effectiveness
- Our partners should demonstrate progress in sustainable food security. Their assistance should not require continued aid for sustainability but promote self-reliance
● Demonstrate direct impact on people
- Projects our partners are involved in should be directly helping food insecure people achieve food security
● Support of men AND women in agriculture
● Local productivity or food consumption gains within communities or regions
● Transparency regarding
● Provide us with educational material from their organization (videos, farmer stories, pictures, etc.)
- We want to show that an individual’s investments in food security are making a difference
Short term goals
We intend to:
● Identify three to five local food producers and restaurants that we can partner with as we develop our third-party certification.
● Connect with five partnering organizations that are addressing food security in developing countries.
● Build our website
- a multi-function platform for education, linking consumers purchases to organization directly impacting hunger, and facilitating dialogue around food security.
● Pursue grant funding opportunities through USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Ford Foundation, etc.
Within 5 years we expect to:
● Expand the number of certified food producers and restaurants by 10% per year
● Improve sales of every certified CSA’s or farmers market stall (and therefore consumption of nutritious food) with our valued added branding
● Increase food production or consumption by 5% in communities our certified non-profit partners are working
● Increase funding to certified partners by 5% for each funded project or region targeted
● Reduce obesity in the US through proper portioning of restaurant meals and increased consumptions of locally produced agriculture.
● Have our food certification brand become a “household name”
● Fund research and innovative solutions to food security.
● Expand certification to other developed countries.