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Combating Food Waste on the Micro level - IdeasUnlimited

Combating Food Wastage on the Micro Level

By | Entrepreneurship, Food for thought, IdeasUnlimited Let's Contemplate Fridays | No Comments

Our IdeasUnlimited team has a tradition of sharing something positive and something thought-worthy every Friday before we all leave for a relaxing weekend. This gives us a chance to discuss our thoughts and bounce ideas off each other about giving back to the society in any way that we can. Coming from all over the world, the IdeasUnlimited’s team brings in knowledge of ground-level realities and a varied experience and input on every topic that is under the limelight each Friday.

This is in spirit with the IdeasUnlimited ambition of mutual growth and becoming conscientious world citizens.

A few Fridays back, our CEO Shahzad Yaqoob (Nick) initiated a discussion on food wastage across the continents. It got us all thinking about how we experience food waste as individuals and how can we counter it.

Food wastage is a complex and multidimensional issue. It impacts human existence through nutritional and environmental degradation.

Research shows the increasingly dismal situation of food availability, usage, distribution and access disparity amongst the developed and developing countries of the world over the years.

The stark differences in economic development are also reflected in the prevalent levels of food poverty and food waste reduction efforts among nations. The nature of food insecurity, hunger, food waste and food loss varies across the globe. Thankfully, there are many international and local initiatives that have prioritized food waste eradication as their main goals.

For a succinct and holistic report on Food Wastage and Loss Around the World prepared by IdeasUnlimited, please

click here

However, food wastage largely remains a societal issue which needs attention from all segments of the society. It is important to bring this narrative under discussion and share techniques for combatting this growing menace at households, organizational, and national levels.

One of our colleagues at IdeasUnlimited, Ashlie, has shared that she feels very strongly about food waste at the household level. Food wastage for her is eatables thrown away because of thoughtlessness, which is in effect food that did not reach the deserving families who are starving. Ashlie aptly calls food hunger as “a branch of poverty, yet arguably a symptom of uncontrolled luxury”. She practices portion control for adults in her household and only cooks a healthy version of the food her young son likes to eat, in order to avoid throwing away cooked and uncooked food. She suggests the creation of food drop-off points in every locality to utilize food that is not being used in homes.

This way instead of throwing it in bins, we can forward it to our fellow citizens who are facing food shortage.

On the same lines, Shakira advocates and practices controlled grocery shopping. This involves buying grocery only when needed and in quantities that can be utilized before the food goes bad in the kitchen. She is also a strong proponent of repurposing leftover cooked ingredients into snacks or supplementing them with another small dish for another meal. This not only reduces the burden of cooking but ensures that food never finds its way to the bin. Better yet, she packages up any leftovers and gives them to the less privileged around her.

Shahzad thinks developed nations should play a major role in eradicating this global issue, as these countries are more proficient in terms of technology and resources. As the developed world has a much more significant proportion of food waste around the world, they should be looking into making permanent and universally applicable laws for reducing portion sizes at restaurants and establishing food pick-up points after lunch and dinner hours to help the needy populace receive food parcels (with due regard to hygiene and health issues) which would otherwise be thrown away as wasted food items.

Shahzad postulates the usage of robotics and artificial intelligence to set up a permanent facility in every neighborhood for transferring food from those who do not need it to those who are looking for it. Not only would this assist in sorting any food parcels from households, restaurants, and supermarkets, it can match it with those who need it. This one-time investment can be fruitful in expanding the radius of collection and delivery of such food.

Moreover, a website or app can be set up that is updated at the backend in real time with available food packages and the contents of each.

Those seeking assistance in getting access to safe and healthy food can sign up for this service and get notifications on availability of the same. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) behind it can match the food packages to those in need closest to that location. The possibilities are endless!

He also believes that more investment should be made towards advocacy campaigns to educate households about efficiently utilizing food products and forwarding them to the less privileged in case of any excess.

I believe the major reason for food waste in today’s world is uncontrolled and growing consumerism. I see how we over-buy at giant food suppliers and hypermarkets because of cheaper prices and promotional offers on bundle purchases. I often find myself becoming a victim of these marketing gimmicks. An international law on food wastage and recycling for Hypermarkets should be implemented to monitor and control food wastage practices.

However, moving from a developing country to developed country, I have noticed how the number of needy people and the nature of food waste changes. Back home in Pakistan, it is very easy to find someone to whom you can give your excess cooked or uncooked food. It is very common at my parents’ house to pack all leftovers and distribute them to the poor people they find on roads on their way. Moreover, there are numerous local food points locally called ‘lunger’ where anyone can drop off cooked as well as uncooked food or even money, to be used by the administration there to feed hungry people. This is done as a form of charity.

Whereas in many developed nations like UAE, government takes full responsibility of its people and their wellbeing. One cannot find hungry or needy people and children asking for food on the roads or pavements. Here, it is very important that you shop and cook wisely to avoid filling your bins instead of nourishing other humans in need. Having said that, to feed people there are government established food or charity centers where you can help in preparing and serving food and provide raw food that can be cooked and distributed amongst the needy.

We always have a choice of being proactive and resolving a growing crisis or contributing to it. Together as a team at IdeasUnlimited, we have become more resolute to reduce food wastage in and around our spaces—resolving the problem at our own micro level. As a result of this discussion, we have come to realize the exponential and multilayered effects of food waste and loss around the world.

Hence, we have decided to become a strict advocate of food sharing and managed grocery shopping to perform our part of helping this world become more equivalent in terms of food distribution. As, indeed, if we do not practically become a part of solutions for Food Wastage and Hunger, we will certainly remain a part of the problem.

Better Lives Through Remote Education

By | Food for thought | No Comments

The technology available today has opened up vast avenues, making us more accountable than ever before for an equitable distribution of opportunities. A world where children born to poor families are not automatically condemned to the vicious cycle of poverty. On the contrary, they are given the opportunity to better their circumstances by a more judicious utilization of resources on our part. I believe, education is the most powerful tool to help break these chains of poverty.

The vicious cycle of poverty

By shifting the paradigm of charity from short-term donations to an investment in humanity, as detailed in the first article of this series, we can create a source of funds to deliver quality education to those most in need. The question now is how will they get access to this education?

Remote Education Done Right

An organization that virtually connects experienced and qualified teachers with poor children in remote areas of underdeveloped nations solves this dilemma very neatly. The only requirements to teach these children remotely are a nominal initial capital investment and some time commitment by knowledgeable academics from anywhere in the world. The budget will be judiciously allocated not to create luxurious facilities but to ensure these underprivileged children get access to world-standard education that will open doors for them in the future

Under this basic education system, students will be able to study till the tenth grade. Then they will have career guidance and placement assistance to earn scholarships for higher education either in their own country or abroad, depending on their abilities, preferences, and the investment available.

Hardware Requirements

Setting up a projector, a computer, a sound system, and dependable high-speed internet in a central location like a school, vocational center, or even someone’s house in an underprivileged community fulfills the infrastructure needs of this project. This would allow teachers to connect to the students and even virtually train local teachers.

The proliferation of hardware tools has made them more affordable than ever before and provided us options from fiber optic cables to portable WiFi devices. Hence, a smaller capital investment can create a remarkable impact on entire communities.

Curriculum

Partnering with accredited schools and following their curriculums, this organization will broaden the horizons and futures of these young minds. Open educational resources like Khan Academy, International Children’s Digital Library, Project Gutenberg, Coursera, to name a few, will further open unimaginable avenues for growth to these underprivileged children. Best of all, these resources can be made accessible very easily through my plan.

Working with NGOs Focusing on Education

Working with reputable NGOs focused on educating the underprivileged will reduce the initial investment and time needed since they will have the basic setup and facilities in place. It will also assist you in finding the most deserving children and regions for the sponsorship schemes. Best of all, partnering with such organizations will enable you to create a larger impact.

Getting Teachers Onboard

Following a standard curriculum eliminates the need for teachers who can commit to an entire academic year of teaching. Qualified teachers can gain valuable experience and work with a more diverse student base. They can teach during the weekend, when they have time after their regular jobs, during the holidays—any free time that they have. Their lectures can also be recorded for later perusal by the local teachers and the students and to use as course material for future batches of students.

Spreading the word will be enough to encourage many teachers to jump on the bandwagon for such a worthwhile cause of bettering the lives of entire families.

Investment, Not Charity

This investment into remote education will not be a free payout since that breeds a culture of expectation that the rich stratum of society will bail out the less privileged class. Charity diverted towards education does not compel them to strive hard and make something of themselves.

On the contrary, if this is structured as an angel investment for the underprivileged, the investee will be motivated to perform better to be able to return the investment amount. The investment can be structured in two ways:

You may invest into the remote education of a child with the understanding that once he or she is done with their professional degree(s), they will work at a place of your choosing for a pre-determined period. The education will thus be put to good use and you will benefit directly from the investment. As for the child, he/she will have an assured position if they attain good grades, considerably reducing the uncertainty associated with job hunting. Families in remote areas will be interested in this scheme due to the guarantee of working in a reputable organization.

On the other hand, you may fund the education as a loan, payable by the investee with a small markup for the deferred terms of payment. The repayment will be due once the education is complete and may also be tied to the earning potential of the sponsored child. This approach has a shorter payback time and allows the child the freedom to apply for employment in their place of choice.

You may also go for a combination of both, with both parties agreeing on fair and equitable terms

Elevating Entire Communities

This way you will be investing in bettering the lives of remote communities instead of cultivating a dependent class that remains mired in poverty. As opposed to charity, the sponsored children will be more motivated to perform better. They will not only have a brighter future ahead of them but will raise their entire families out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Investment in remote education transforming lives

The children will be more valuable contributing members of society, increasing economic growth and thus, exponentially improving the prospects of their remote communities. So, your investment in remote education today will initiate a process of growth and improvement with far-reaching effects.

Written by Shahzad Yaqoob,

15th January, 2019

Charity as Investment Image

Charity as an Investment in Humanity

By | Food for thought | No Comments

We are all taught and conditioned by society that helping those in need is kind and kindness is rewarded. So, when we want to help the poor, we appease our consciences by giving them charity, shrugging off our responsibility. We never address the root cause of the problem, rather perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty by robbing the unfortunate of the initiative to better their circumstances. How can a person accustomed to receiving monetary help ever find the drive or the means to drag themselves out of this situation?

The Shift from Donations to Investment

To radically shift the paradigm of charity, it is crucial to move away from short-term monetary donations to long-term investment in the futures of those who need assistance. I strongly believe that the only way to uplift this stratum of underprivileged people and help them escape the morass of poverty is educating them and broadening their world view, so they can get better jobs, start off businesses, and improve the economic conditions of their families. Your charity is better re-purposed as an investment in their future—an investment in humanity, for a future where every member of society is accomplished enough to contribute. A receiving hand will then not be a perpetually outstretched hand but become a productive, contributing member of society.

Charity as an investment in humanity-quote

Lack of access to a decent education is a problem that plagues not only underdeveloped nations but many states in developed nations, with overflowing classrooms, poorly and underpaid equipped staff, and lack of resources. This creates an insurmountable handicap that afflicts the underprivileged all their lives.

Giving them means to educate themselves paves the path towards socioeconomic independence and self-sustainability of their families, transforming them from belonging to a beneficiary segment of society to empowered individuals with the opportunity to participate in the greater world. Not only this but education creates an awareness about rights and duties, good and evil, nourishing more socially conscious citizens who are less likely to fall into a life of crime and abuse. This investment in humanity will yield better human beings with a more positive outlook, who believe in assisting each other and giving back to society. It will also generate a more positive outlook, with every underprivileged individual motivated to at least strive for bettering the circumstances of his/her birth.

How Can Your Charity Become an Investment in Humanity?

Your charity will serve as a sponsorship fund to educate an underprivileged child unable to get a decent education and/or learn vocational skills due to lack of financial means. It will cover tuition fees, books, uniforms, supplies, and all the other necessary accompaniments of a good education. So, you will invest in a child’s future—radically changing it for the better. Your investment in humanity today will reap compound returns in the future—returns for you personally and for the society in the form of a greater percentage of productive individuals.

Become an Angel Investor

We’re thus restructuring charity as an angel investment for the underprivileged. In such scenario, you will have a vested interest in the success of the investee. You can structure the terms of the investment in two different ways. First, you can bear the expenses of educating the child with the understanding that once the child has completed the education, they will work at a place of your choosing for a predefined period. This will ensure that the education is put to good use in a position that benefits you as well. The child will also have an assured position and hence a secure future, provided he/she completes the education with decent grades. This benefit of guaranteed employment will act as another inducement for those families considering this option for educating their children.

Second, the invested amount can be a loan to the investee who will be obliged to return the principal amount with a small markup for the deferred payment terms. This markup can also be tied to the earning potential of the sponsored child, having accounted for fulfilling necessary expenditures first. The merits of this approach are that the sponsored child can apply for employment anywhere and you will get back your investment in a shorter period of time.

You can also go for a combination of both, with both parties agreeing on fair and equitable terms.

These terms ensure that the charity investment is exactly that and not a free payout. The money will then be utilized in the manner intended, and this will provide the additional impetus to guarantee better academic performance and brighter work prospects.

It will be a long-term investment and will have as much to do with the child as his/her parents or legal guardians since the child will be a minor. Therefore, you will choose the family and the child and mutually agree on the terms of the partnership.

Risks and Returns

As with any investment, there are risks attached to this one too, such as the child not being able to complete his/her education due to extenuating circumstances such as incarceration or death. Since you will have invested in families vetted for suitability, the chances of such a situation are relatively remote. A more valid concern may be that the investee is unable to get employment, or the wages or salary are barely enough to cover basic needs, leaving nothing over to return the investment. While not desirable, this is still immeasurably preferable to giving charity to the poor with no investment in the betterment of their future. At least this way, the investee child will have grown to be a responsible member of society, capable of contributing positively to the betterment of humanity.

Using charity as an investment in the future of humanity will have a spiraling effect, with each well-educated—previously underprivileged—child improving the circumstances of his/her family, helping other family members find better prospects, consequently freeing their future generations from the shackles of poverty. The child and his/her family will also contribute to the economy, directly or indirectly creating more opportunities and job prospects for others, compounding the benefits of your investment today.

Isn’t this a much more satisfying way of utilizing your charity—investing in the future of humanity?

Written by Shahzad Yaqoob,

27th September, 2018