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19 Organizations and Initiatives Winning in the Food Movement
By Jared Kaufman
On November 1st and 2nd, more than 80 food activists, farmers, policymakers, performers, journalists, researchers, business leaders, chefs and others will gather in New York City for the 3rd Annual Food Tank NYC Summit and Gala Dinner. This year, we're focusing around the theme of "The Food Movement Is Growing (and Winning)!" The hard work that food system advocates do every day is making a difference, and we're highlighting the small victories and major achievements that are building a more equitable and environmentally sustainable food system.
Food Tank is featuring 19 nonprofits, companies, and inspiring initiatives that will be represented at our summit and are doing important work to push the food system forward.
1. Africa Farmers Club
A community of farmers across 18 African countries, the Africa Farmers Club aims to bring agricultural workers together from the private sector, the public sector, and farmer organizations to share stories, successes, and knowledge. The Africa Farmers Club believes that "an informed farmer will always make the right decision, which will have a ripple effect in the whole value chain," so they aim to promote entrepreneurship and networking to help farmers use resources as efficiently as possible.
A natural postharvest protection for produce, Apeel is an invisible, edible, and tasteless coating. By acting as a barrier-like skin to protect fruits and vegetables from oxidation and microbial activity, keeping it fresh for longer and reducing food waste between harvest and consumption. Apeel Sciences was founded by Dr. James Rogers, who invented the technology while completing his doctoral degree in materials sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
3. Co-Op Dayton
Co-Op Dayton is a nonprofit that encourages businesses in Dayton, Ohio, and more broadly to adopt a cooperative model of worker ownership. Cooperative companies are owned by their employees, who are elected to the company's board of directors and participate in open-book financial management. Co-Op Dayton provides resources and services to businesses adopting a cooperative model, to encourage the development of more resilient, community-oriented co-op companies.
4. Farmer’s Fridge
Farmer's Fridge, launched in 2013, installs refrigerators full of fresh salads, sandwiches, breakfasts, and snacks in cities from Chicago to Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Farmer's Fridge is looking to make it easier for people to access healthy food options, wherever they are, at any time of day. And instead of expiration dates, food in the fridges is marked with a "donate by" date, when the food is donated to community partner organizations. As part of their sustainability efforts, any food that is not able to be donated is composted.
5. Food Policy Action
Food Policy Action was founded in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders, including Chef Tom Colicchio, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, and Gary Hirshberg, the Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, to hold legislators accountable on legislation effects food and farming.
GrowNYC provides free tools and services for New Yorkers to help improve access to fresh, healthy local food. In addition to a network of farmers' markets and fresh food organizations, GrowNYC builds and rejuvenates community and school gardens and delivers environmental stewardship programs to more than 30,000 children each year.
7. The HAPPY Org
HAPPY—Happy Active Positive Purposeful Youth—is a youth-led organization that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social health issues they face today. They equip kids and their families with the resources, skills, and information to takes responsibility for their own health and confidently embrace nutritious and affordable food. Founded by Haile Thomas, the organization brings fun and engaging programs to schools, camps, and communities to engage youth in nutrition.
Heated is a new online food magazine that's a collaboration between the publication site Medium and Mark Bittman, a former New York Times food writer and the author of the cookbook How to Cook Everything. Rather than posting articles on new restaurants or profiles of chefs, the website aims to "showcase the links between food and just about everything else: agriculture, politics, history, and labor; culture and cooking; identity, family, and love."
9. Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center
The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center works to develop innovative and evidence-based solutions to prevent chronic diseases and promote food security in and outside of New York City. The center's research, policy analysis, and education opportunities joins experts and students together to brainstorm ways New York City's food policy can be a model for the rest of the world.
10. Misfits Market
Misfits Market is a subscription box-meets-food rescue. Working directly with farms around the U.S., Misfits Market buys imperfect produce that may have otherwise been thrown out because it does not look uniform enough to sell in a traditional grocery store. In each box, which comes every week or every other week, subscribers will receive this nutritious, organic produce for prices up to 25–40 percent lower than at a traditional grocery store. As of late 2019, Misfits Market delivers to 19 states plus Washington, D.C.
11. Rise and Root Farm
Karen Washington, a farmer and community activist, wants to build a different agricultural narrative, inclusive of all races, genders, and sexualities. She created Rise and Root Farm to be a place of healing for diverse and marginalized communities — particularly important today, as black farmers work to call attention to not only their own contributions to the modern food system but also the impact of the slave trade on the development of global food chains. "Agriculture must be inclusive in its diversity," Washington tells Food Tank.
12. Sealed Air
Sealed Air, which has decades of experience creating sustainable food packaging — they manufacture the Cryovac brand of products — aims to use food packaging as a way to address worldwide resource depletion and wasteful supply chains. Food scientist Karl Deily leads Sealed Air's commercial team, which aims to create innovative packaging that improves food safety, extends the shelf life of foods, and reduces waste in the food supply chain.
13. Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA is part of the global Slow Food network, which spreads a mission of good, clean, and fair food for all to over 150,000 members in more than 150 countries. Through a vast volunteer network of local chapters, youth, and food communities, they link the pleasures of the table with a commitment to protect community, culture, knowledge, and environment.
Through its innovation and venture hub SnackFutures, food company Mondelēz is pairing startups with experts to help cultivate the future of sustainable, delicious snacking. SnackFutures identifies delicious, nutritious, and environmentally sustainable ingredients that would otherwise be passed off as waste and works to create new brands with them. "It's critical that Mondelēz and other big companies interact with entrepreneurs to keep learning and get stronger together," Brigitte Wolf, the global head of SnackFutures Innovation at Mondelēz, told Food Tank.
15. Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm grows food as an act of solidarity with those oppressed by food apartheid, while maintaining respect for their ancestors, history, and the environment. Soul Fire Farm conducts training programs to raise the next generation of activist-farmers and support food sovereignty for future communities. The organization's Co-Director Leah Penniman recently completed a book, "Farming While Black," a guide for African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity.
16. Square Roots
This urban farming company, located in Brooklyn, NY, grows a range of delicious herbs and distributes them directly to grocery stores across NYC. At the heart of Square Roots is their unique year-long Next-Gen Farmer Training Program, which provides an opportunity for young people to enter the farming industry. Square Roots farmers spend the year learning about plant science and how to grow indoors while getting exposed to business and community building. Co-founded by Tobias Peggs and Kimbal Musk, the farming company graduated its first class of students in 2017.
17. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a nonprofit organization that aims to create a food system that is healthy and sustainable. They operate an 80-acre farm and education center that experiments with and improves sustainable farming practices, trains beginning farmers, helps children discover the sources of their food and increases public awareness of seasonal and sustainable food.
Founded by Sam Kass, former White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, Trove collaborates with corporations involved with transforming health, the climate, and the planet through food. They serve as strategic advisors, investors, and communication strategists to help innovative food companies achieve greater impact.
WhyHunger works to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions to promote self-reliance and community empowerment. Their programs include a hotline to connect those in need with resources and initiatives to advance international food sovereignty and the basic rights to food, land, water, and sustainable livelihoods.
Jared Kaufman is a Research and Writing Fellow with Food Tank and a Boston-based food journalist and cheesemonger.
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In a pilot study at the University of Helsinki, dogs trained as medical diagnostic assistants were taught to recognize the previously unknown odor signature of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. And they learned with astonishing success: After only a few weeks, the first dogs were able to accurately distinguish urine samples from COVID-19 patients from urine samples of healthy individuals.
Important Findings for Other Teams<p>The very rapid and promising findings from Finland are also important for other research teams, such as those in Great Britain and France, who are training sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19.</p><p>Fellow researchers from the <a href="http://assistenzhunde-zentrum.de/index.php/news/covid-19-hunde" target="_blank">German Assistance Dog Center (TARSQ)</a> have also benefited from the Finnish results.</p><p>"No one could tell us with certainty whether training with the aggressive virus is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-house-pets-test-positive-for-coronavirus/a-53460111" target="_blank">dangerous or not for humans and dogs</a>. We wanted to gather more information first before we started training because the German virologists advised us against it — after all, so little is known about the virus so far," explains Luca Barrett from TARSQ.</p>
Where Does the Characteristic Smell Come From?<p>It is still unclear which substances in urine produce the apparently characteristic COVID-19 odor. Since SARS-CoV-2 not only attacks the lungs, but also causes damage to blood vessels, kidneys and other organs, it is assumed that the patients' urine odor also changes. This is something which the dogs, with their highly sensitive olfactory organs, notice immediately.</p><p>Certain diseases appear to have a specific olfactory signature that trained dogs can sniff out with amazing accuracy, Barrett says.</p><p>"According to one study, dogs can detect breast cancer with a 93% probability, for example. And lung cancer with a 97% probability," she says.</p><p>But dogs can also identify skin cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer or prostate cancer very reliably, according to Barrett. "The hit rate, which was not so good in the early days of training, has risen enormously in recent years," she says.</p>
Hit Rate Decisive<p>Besides cancer, the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-sniffer-dog-makes-1-million-drug-bust/a-53433307" target="_blank">dogs</a> can also detect Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's sufferers smell different even years before they have the disease. "That's how we came up with the idea of training dogs as an early warning system for Parkinson's," Barrett says.</p><p>Dogs are also trained to detect malaria, but the hit rate is not yet satisfactory, she says. So far, the dogs recognize seven out of 10 infected persons, which is not enough.</p><p>A high hit rate is, of course, also absolutely necessary when training for the aggressive SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, according to Barret. "We hope that the hit rate for the coronavirus is significantly higher in the fully trained dogs; after all, it would be very dangerous if COVID-19 were not detected," she says</p>
Trained Tracking Dogs<p>Dogs' ability to smell is about a million times better than that of humans. Humans have about 5 million olfactory cells, compared with 125 million for dachshunds and 220 million for sheepdogs.</p><p>Dogs also inhale up to 300 times per minute in short breaths, meaning that their olfactory cells are constantly supplied with new odor particles. In addition, dogs' noses differentiate between right and left. This spatial sense of smell allows the animals to follow a trail more easily.</p><p>During the training sessions, the dogs — mostly Labrador retrievers or retrievers in general, but also cocker spaniels or sheepdog breeds — are each trained for one scent. That can be the smell of a drug or an explosive, or, as here, the olfactory signature of a specific disease.This means that one dog cannot recognize several types of cancer.</p><p>The animals are trained with containers holding samples of breath or sweat, for example. As soon as they have identified the smell they are looking for, the dogs hear a click and get a treat. They are reliably trained for the one smell on this reward principle.</p>
Great Potential, Great Skepticism<p>Drug and explosive detection dogs have been used for some time. But trained medical scent detection dogs are also now working in hospitals. For example, they sniff the bodies of patients with suspected skin cancer to try and detect the disease — only with the patients' consent, of course. So these skilled snufflers are helping doctors in diagnosing diseases and detecting them early on.</p><p>However, so far there are only very few medical detection dogs. The dog owners almost always work voluntarily and the trained sniffer dogs live in normal households. There is great skepticism, especially among traditional doctors and health insurance companies, even though the first indications given by the dog have to be followed by further medical tests anyway and a lot of time and costs could be saved by early cancer detection.</p>
Possible Coronavirus Applications<p>If the findings from Finland are confirmed, the sniffer dogs with their extremely sensitive sense of smell could prove to be a great help in the fight against the new coronavirus.</p><p>Luca Barrett from TARSQ can easily picture coronavirus sniffer dogs being used in situations where there is a high risk of infection. For example, people attending football matches and other major events could be checked before they are admitted.</p><p>The dogs could also be employed at airports to scan people entering a country. "When the dogs go down the queue, they can detect if someone is healthy and can enter the country. But if a person smells of COVID-19, the handler could send that person to a coronavirus testing center instead," Barrett says. That is because a second test is still needed to confirm the dog's initial sniff detection.</p><p><span></span>Barrett says dogs could also be used to search for the virus on surfaces. For example, before passengers board an aircraft, a four-legged friend could first check whether the machine is free from SARS-CoV-2. Similar measures are planned for doctors' surgeries, aged care homes or nursing homes that have had to be evacuated because of COVID-19 cases. Before these are used again, a sniffer dog could check whether the environment is "clean."</p>
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