BCFN Hosting Contest for Innovators Under 35 to Solve Global Food Problems

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition's (BCFN) Young Earth Solutions! (YES!) program is running its fourth innovation contest to encourage young researchers and university students under the age of 35 to develop innovative solutions to problems within the global food system.

Past BCFN YES! finalist ideas include 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.

This year’s finalist projects will be presented at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan, hosted within Expo Milano 2015. 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.

The application deadline is May 31, 2015.

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The 2012 winner, Manna From Our Roofs, rescues abandoned city buildings and transforms them into multi-layered urban farms incorporating roof gardens, window farms and edible walls. The project pioneered an urban food growth movement aimed to increase access to homegrown food.

“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,” Federica Marra, founder of Manna From Our Roofs, told Food Tank.

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.”

In 2013, Makame Mahmud from Bangladesh and his team took the top prize with their idea, VALUE**+**, an integrated food network created to combat food insecurity in the urban slums of Dhaka. The network addresses lowering food prices and reducing food waste.

“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.

The 2014 contest 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 against obesity; the promotion of sustainable agriculture; and the reduction of food waste by 50 percent by 2020.

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

In other food security solution news, this month the European Commission launched an online consultation on how science and innovation can help tackle global food and nutrition security challenges; while a design challenge hosted by the Biomimicry Institute and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation is now accepting entries for nature-inspired solutions to global food challenges.

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