This week, we read that agtech firm AmplifiedAg is building a USD $1.2 million indoor farm at a prison in Columbia. And it got us thinking about all the food producers and manufacturers out there that are leveraging out-of-the-box initiatives to grow food and fulfil socio-economic needs at the same time – from supporting local economies, to promoting good mental health by involving communities in sustainable and healthy food production.
It’s easy to focus on bad news. But the global food industry is full of positive stories and life-changing initiatives right now – so let’s not forget to celebrate them.
The facility in development by AmplifiedAg (in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections and Department of Agriculture) will give inmates at the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution the opportunity to grow their own fresh lettuce. They’ll also be responsible for processing their produce, and it’ll be included in meals at the prison’s cafeteria.
There will be eight farming modules, with the capacity to grow 48,000 pounds of lettuce per year.
Most importantly, inmates will gain career experience, including skills in all areas of vertical farm production (from growing to packaging)
In a statement, Don Taylor (Founder and CEO at AmplifiedAg) said:
“This is an important and innovative program and has the potential to positively impact the daily lives of incarcerated individuals, reduce recidivism, create new jobs in agriculture, and contribute to the facility’s healthy food security program.”
In Vancouver, Canada, Sole Food Street Farms has been transforming car parks and empty urban space into productive street farms since 2009. The organisation produces 30 tonnes of fresh food every year, which is sold to consumers and donated to community food partners.
And again, there’s a focus on training and generating opportunities for under-priviliged communities. Sole Food offers training and employment to people from the city’s Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood, where barriers to employment are high. Citizens get to work with the soil, learn how to grow and process fresh food, and experience the mental health benefits of working in a community growing environment.
In London, a platform called Feedr is disrupting the flow of revenue from corporate businesses looking for catered work lunches and functions – helping those businesses buy healthier, high quality food from local food vendors.
Instead of opting for a large-scale caterer or canteen-supplied food, businesses can use Feedr to order food (both everyday lunches for their teams, and food for bigger events) from small-scale local suppliers. The platform allows companies to provide healthy, catered meals for their employees for less than GBP £5 per day – and because healthy food increases staff productivity and decreases the number of sick days taken, many companies are fully or partially subsidising employee food via Feedr.
Major enterprises including Etsy, Airbnb, PwC and DHL are choosing this platform to provide their office food.
As the world grapples with food insecurity, poor health, and the link between food and both physical and mental wellbeing, more and more organisations are showing us that fresh ideas can make a big difference.
We’re seeing new ways to produce, process, and distribute food being developed around the world all the time. And a growing number of organisations are using the power of food production to create opportunities for community work and individual rehabilitation – because growing food is good for everyone.
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