Next time you toss rotten lettuce or moldy berries think about this: globally, we waste more than a third of the food we produce.
There is a Solution…
A group of Swedish graduate students are working to fight the problem of food waste. Working in the Food Innovation and Product Design program at Lund University, they’ve come up with a way to use produce that is about to go to waste. The goal being to help people who have limited access to food.
They’re calling it FoPo Food Powder.
It’s exactly what it sounds like – dried, powdered, shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. FoPo powder can be dropped into relief efforts after natural disasters, or it can be given out in low-resource areas where refrigeration and fresh food are hard to come by.
“When we found out that one third of the food produced was going to waste while people in the world were starving, we could not back out,” says Kent Ngo, one of the students who helped develop it.
Ngo says they are not making something ground-breaking. Powdered food has been around since the early days of the space programs. But they are rethinking the waste and delivery channels.
Their development team reached out to willing farmers and retailers to source fruit while food scientists experimented with different drying and powdering methods.
Settling on spray-drying it, the process then included grinding it up. Then the students looked at ways to distribute it through commercial and government supported sites.
One member of the group, Gerald Perry Marin grew up in the Philippines. He’d seen how natural disasters such as recurring typhoons cut people off from their food supply. And how important it was to have options for food that were easy to access in a relief situation.
Ngo says, “Today a relief bag for humanitarian disasters contains various foods such as strawberry jam, peanut butter and peas in tomato sauce. We think that an easily transported pack of cheap dried food powder with high nutritional value would fit in perfectly.”
The Lund University team has been trying to keep its prices down to aid low-budget humanitarian groups and non-governmental groups.
Pros and Cons
Freeze-dried food retains most of the nutritional benefits of raw food. It loses some vitamin and mineral density in the drying process. But it is still a good way to get fibre and nutrients.
As makers of FoPo, they are currently running a pilot program in Manila. For their first run, they are drying calamansi – a citrus fruit. Since there’s is a surplus of it, it’s easy for their Philippine manufacturing program to dry and powder.
The group has reportedly gotten support from senators in the Philippines. And they’re about to start working with the U.N.’s Initiative on Food Loss and Waste.
To broaden their reach, they’re also working with commercial suppliers and companies that want to use FoPo in their food products.
With continuing enthusiasm, the company has almost 40 international supermarkets on board. Some examples of FoPo Powder’s use might be cake mixes and ice cream. Consumers can also sprinkle it into food or drinks, or use it in baking.
“I was a bit surprised that the calamansi powder tasted so good,” Ngo says. “I cannot wait for the mango and pineapple powder.”