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The Food Fix
Welcome to The Food Fix, where we talk with innovators figuring out how to better feed the world.
Category: Fitness & Nutrition
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
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The Food Fix is produced by students and faculty at the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation at Michigan State University....

by The Food Fix
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November 17, 2017 08:54 AM PST

By Gloria Nzeka

Eating healthy often appears to come with a high price tag or require a lot of effort and time. This is where creativity and Innovation in the food sector is needed.

One organization in Pittsburgh has successfully established an effective way to make healthy food accessible to the community.

"So we started this project where we go into the community and build
vegetables gardens in people’s backyards."

In this episode of the Food Fix, we spoke to Mr. Richard Piacentini, CEO of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh about Homegrown, a project that was inspired by former US first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Program.

Homegrown began as an initiative to encourage healthy eating habits in the
Pittsburgh community.

November 10, 2017 04:48 PM PST

By Max Johnston

This story is the second and final segment in our series on Childhood Hunger. Check out part I, here.

In the first part of our story, Susan Popkin from The Urban Institute talked about ‘food insecurity.’ Popkin said that food may be so hard to come by, that it may be leading children to crime.

“Hearing just, how matter of fact the kids were about ‘oh yeah, everybody runs out, nobody gets enough,’ that kids steal." Popkin said. "That they have to live with that everyday.”

Popkin and her team found that after-school programs, like the Harvest Share they started in Portland, Oregon, could address Childhood Hunger and the stigma around it.

Project Manager Micaela Lipman says that once kids were in these programs, they were eager to involve other people their age.

“They really, really, really wanted to work with other teenagers in other communities and learn what other folks were doing around the same issue," Lipman said. "So connecting with other teenage led groups in the area.”

Reporter Max Johnston takes you to a program in Lansing that's tackling childhood hunger.

November 03, 2017 03:46 PM PDT

By Max Johnston

This story is the first segment in a two-part story on childhood hunger.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, over 15 million households in the United States suffer from ‘food insecurity.’

Living in a food insecure household means that there isn’t easy access to high quality food. In fact, good food may be so hard to come by that it drives some kids and young adults to crime.

Susan Popkin is a Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based thinktank.

She says food insecure households don’t have high-quality food, but they make do with what they have.

“They’re buying ramen noodles or something else that’s not perishable that they can keep around and is filling,” Popkin says. “It means a lot of times the adults in the house will go hungry or skip meals so that the kids can eat.”

Popkin and her team researched food insecurity in children and young adults from 10 communities across the country.

One of the many things that they found is that food insecure households are often located in so-called ‘food deserts.’ Areas, typically in cities, where grocery stores are few and far between.

“So instead they might have access to a bodega or a corner store where the prices are marked way up and the food quality is poor.” Popkin says. “They have to travel a long way to the full-service grocery store.”

Popkin says that most food insecure households qualify for some form of government assistance, but a lot of that money is used to just get them to a grocery store.

“I’ve talked to people that have spent an hour and half getting to the grocery store because they have to take two or three buses,” Popkin says.

Food insecurity trickles down to children and young adults, who often have a difficult decision to make. Some turn to crime to feed themselves and their families.

“Kids getting involved with stealing or even with feeling like they had to get involved with doing things for a gang and for girls getting involved with, they called it dating older guys,” Popkin says. “You know, they’re doing it because they don’t know what else to do.”

Popkin and her team at the Urban Institute found that being introduced to even small-scale crime at a young age had lasting effects on children and young adults. There were people from numerous communities that reported flunking out of school or seeing jail time.

The Urban Institute wanted to tackle food insecurity early on so they worked with a group of students near Portland, Oregon to design an after-school food program tailored to children and young adults.

“They came up with this idea that they would like to do a harvest share for their community. And that the kids would actually run the harvest share day. They set it up and checked everybody in and give everybody their grocery bag,” Popkin says.

Popkin says that having programs designed by and catered to children and teens got them access to food and brought in more people their age to the program.

A similar program has been operating in Lansing for the past decade. We’ll take a look at that program in part II of our series on childhood hunger.

October 27, 2017 04:49 PM PDT

Sera Gondwe is a faculty member at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In November of 2016, Sera and her team launched a 6 months experiential learning program with graduates from LUANAR’s Agribusiness Management bachelors program.

In this interview, Sera tells us more about the pilot.

October 20, 2017 11:13 AM PDT

The country of Venezuela has been embroiled in political turmoil for most of the 21st century.

Economic mismanagement and political instability has led to food shortages for some of Venezuela’s most vulnerable populations.

Geoff Ramsey is the Associate for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America. We talked about Venezuelan food shortages, the economy, and much more.

October 11, 2017 11:56 AM PDT

By Max Johnston

Here in the states we like our sweet potatoes fried, sweetened and tater-totted. But the nutritious sweet potato is more than just a side dish.

Sweet potato is also a cheap and resilient crop. While it’s a popular food here, it can be a livelihood for low-income farmers. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

But there’s a small problem, or should I say a big problem in a small package.

We may enjoy sweet potatoes, but so does the weevil--a small brown beetle that resembles an ant.

Brooke Bissinger is an entomologist at AgBiome, a biotech company in North Carolina. She says the weevil loves the taste of sweet potato.

“Weevil is the most devastating pest to the sweet potato worldwide,” Bissinger said.

Bissinger says the weevil likes to eat and live in sweet potatoes. But in the process, they ruin them for everyone else.

“The insect lays its eggs in the sweet potato itself and then the larvae or the immature weevils, feeds on the potato,” Bissinger said. “It also causes the potato to make chemicals that are both bad tasting and toxic to people and animals.”

Weevils can be especially devastating to African farmers because sweet potato is a ‘low value’ crop that doesn’t fetch much cash in the open market.

Here in the states farmers spray pesticides to kill weevils. While that’s effective here it’s not really an option for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It’s a very low-value crop they’re growing to feed their families,” Bissinger said. “So the cost for them to use insecticides in these African countries is much more than the crop itself.”

Because there are so many farmers in the region it’s very easy for weevils to spread and devastate other crops.

There are certain cultural practices to stop the spread of weevils, like rotating your crops and burning infested sweet potatoes. But those require a lot of work and time that those farmers might not have.

So Bissinger and her team at AgBiome are looking for cheap and effective ways to protect the sweet potato from weevils. They’re doing this by studying micro-organisms and bacteria that are already present in the sweet potato and the surrounding soil that can fight off the pest.

This isn’t an entirely new concept. There’s good bacteria all over the place. There’s good bacteria in your stomach to help with digestion. Even yogurt is made from healthy bacteria that ferments milk.

“So there are good bacteria that can control bad bacteria, or even other organisms. So there are good bacteria that can control insects,” Bissinger said.

Using good bacteria to fight pests has been done before. Bt, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, is a common bacteria in soil that kills insects.

“It’s super commonly used in agriculture and insect control, but Bt isn’t the only microbe that’s out there,” Bissinger said. “So we’re really interested in looking around sweet potatoes to see if there are other bacteria that are beneficial that could kill the weevil.”

If AgBiome finds bacteria that fight weevils in sweet potatoes and their soil, it could be used to give African farmers cheap and easy access to an effective weevil pesticide.

For the next three years AgBiome, with a grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be identifying microbes and bacteria in sweet potatoes and soil from sub-Saharan Africa.

“Hopefully once we find something, we’ll go over to Africa and test it against the species they’ve got and work with partners over there to get it out to the growers,” Bissinger said.

September 11, 2017 01:10 PM PDT

As part of The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism’s two-continent, three-country training tour, we’re sharing stories that we’ve received through our global partnerships.

This story on the communicating research to the public was produced by Bernadetta Chiwanda from FM 101 Power Radio.

Chiwanda interviewed Dave Poulson, the Senior Director of The Knight Center.

Poulson says research is no good if no one knows about it.

FM 101 Power Radio is Malawi’s first independent radio station and covers all three regions of the country.

For more information on The Knight Center’s tour and partnerships, read more here: https://msufoodfix.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/bridging-food-scientists-and-journalists-with-communications-training/#more-1596

September 07, 2017 09:56 AM PDT

As part of The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism's two-continent, three-country training tour, we're sharing stories that we've received through our global partnerships.

This story on the relationship between Malawi's researchers and farmers was produced by Bernadetta Chiwanda from FM 101 Power Radio.

Emmanuel Kaunda is the out-going Acting Vice Chancellor at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Fisheries.

He says poor communication between scientists and farmers cost Malawi billions of Kwachas, Malawi's currency.

FM 101 Power Radio is Malawi's first independent radio station and covers all three regions of the country.

For more information on The Knight Center's tour and partnerships, read more here:


August 31, 2017 10:30 AM PDT

As part of The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism's two-continent, three-country training tour, we're sharing stories that we've received through our global partnerships.

Stanley Kadzuwa from The Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM Radio interviewed David Poulson, Senior Associate Director of The Knight Center and Professor of Journalism at Michigan State University.

Poulson talked about communicating research through journalism, the differences between Malawi and Michigan, and some stories from the training tour.

MIJ FM Radio has operated for over 15 years and airs programs throughout Malawi's three regions.

For more information on The Knight Center's tour and partnerships, read more here:


August 23, 2017 11:06 AM PDT

As part of The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism's two-continent, three-country training tour, we're sharing stories that we've received through our global partnerships.

This story on publishing research from Malawian scientists was produced by Rhoda Msiska from the Voice of Livingstonia.

Scientists in Malawi are coordinating with the media to spread the word of their research.

Some say research findings haven't been put to full use due to poor communication.

Voice of Livingstonia is a radio station operated in the Northern Region of Malawi, and reaches over 4 million listeners.

For more information on The Knight Center's tour and partnerships, check out our Wordpress:


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