Food from Forests

Food from Forests: Ancient Food for a Healthy Future!

Crested Butte, United StatesIxlu, Guatemala
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Food from Forests will provide a nutritious rainforest tree food, Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) to malnourished children in Guatemala.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if rural and indigenous Guatemalan children were healthy and well fed? What if nourishing them also helped them become independent of foreign food imports while mitigating climate change through reforestation and rainforest conservation?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Guatemala has the world’s fourth highest rate of malnutrition despite being a leading exporter of food and luxury crops. 70% of children under 5 are malnourished. Malnourished children are sick more often, miss more school days, and never reach their full potential as adults. Chronic malnutrition costs Guatemala 30% of its GDP. Maya Nut forests constituted an important food source for the Maya. Unfortunately modern communities have forgotten it.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Food from Forests is a locally produced school lunch product made with a delicious, nutritious rainforest tree seed (Maya Nut). We will work with children, teachers and parents to develop a highly nutritious lunch product made with Maya Nut and other nutritious ingredients. Children, parents and Maya Nut producers participate in product development. This will ensure acceptance by kids and moms and will secure local buy-in for the project. The product will be something that meets or exceeds the nutritional requirements for school-age kids, is palatable to a wide range of children, and is relatively cheap to produce and package. Second, a processing plant will be established locally to produce, package and distribute the school lunch product.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Food from Forests will be a women-owned and managed commercial kitchen buying top quality Maya Nut from rural women producers at a fair price. The Maya Nut will be combined with other locally sourced ingredients and transformed into a delicious, nutritious snack food or drink. The product will be packaged in attractive, biodegradable packaging for distribution in nearby schools. Schools purchase the Maya Nut product from the kitchen and are happy knowing the money is staying in the region and is contributing to a locally managed healthy food production system. Kids eating Maya Nut products twice weekly are healthier, get sick less often and perform better in school because their nutritional status is improving.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Food from Forests is a tool to scale up the successful Healthy Kids Healthy Forests (HKHF) program in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti. The Maya Nut processing kitchen is thriving and the project is replicated in more Guatemalan communities every year. HKHF has planted 325,000+ trees and provided Maya Nut lunches to 15,000+ children. 800+ rural women have earned income producing and selling Maya Nut. As a result of HKHF, in 2011 the Guatemalan Ministry of Education passed a law requiring that Maya Nut be served once a week in school lunches in the Petén. Maya Nut has a pronounced positive effect on children's health, weight, nutritional status, immune systems and performance in school. The Food from Forests product development is the next logical step toward ensuring local children have the privilege of consuming Maya Nut on a regular basis.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Once Food from Forests has developed the Maya Nut school lunch product and created capacity to produce it, there will be no barriers to scaling up Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests school lunch program in Guatemala. The Food from Forests kitchen can grow to meet demand from other regions and can add more products for sale to diversify their income. The entire process is participatory and this ensures beneficiaries are empowered and motivated to succeed. Because Food from Forests was conceptualized by the community and beneficiaries, it is a locally appropriate, replicable and scalable solution.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Food from Forests is an economically sustainable solution to malnutrition and dependence on imported food in Guatemala. The Food from Forests kitchen will generate income both for the suppliers of raw Maya Nut and for the employees of the kitchen. Maya Nut lunch products will be sold to community schools who are allocated €0.12 /child/day to spend on school lunches.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The majority of school lunch products in Guatemala are imported from other countries and are of dubious nutritional value. They tend to be high in sugar and carbohydrates and overly packaged. Food from Forests is working to change this paradigm with this project. Parents are interested in seeing their children receive a locally produced product, but they have been wary in the past because the Maya Nut products have been very rustic and not professionally packaged or hygienic. Food from Forests will address these issues.
Team

Founding Story

Maya Nut is native to Guatemala and was a staple food several generations ago. Recently, however, Maya Nut has become stigmatized for being a food for the poor and fodder for animals. Realizing that kids are eating imported ramen noodles from China for school lunch while Maya Nut is growing around them was our aha moment. Producing a quality Maya Nut product that is delicious and easy to prepare as well as nutritious, organic, non-GMO and sustainable gives people a new perspective on Maya Nut. A value-added project like Food from Forests makes this product a reality, it also infuses money into the community by creating jobs, building capacity and adding value to Maya Nut forests.

Team

Frances Bursch- Assistant Director of the Maya Nut Institute (MNI) has a degree in international development with a focus in Latin America. Erika Vohman- Executive Director and creator of MNI has 20+ years experience with Maya Nut and related social enterprises. Erika Barrera: MNI's Guatemala country coordinator and owner of Ramón Femenino a Women's Maya Nut enterprise. The team will grow to include women from Ixlu working at the Food from Forests kitchen. Erika B. provides invaluable connections and insights into Maya Nut production and consumption in Guatemala as well as experience with rural women's cooperatives. Erika V. has years of experience spearheading successful HKHF projects, is the leading expert on Maya Nut and has infinite knowledge of non-profits. Frances keeps her finger on the pulse of development initiatives in the region and is dedicated to community development projects that are equally good for people and the environment, especially with consideration for climate change. Together we have a powerful range of qualifications and experiences to help Food from Forests achieve its intended impact.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

I was emailed by Candela Iriel Justribó

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder of Food from Forests & Assistant Director of the Maya Nut Institute

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Zero Hunger, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

In Santiago, Dominican Republic in 2013 I initiated a recycling project that benefits kids living in a marginalized neighborhood bordering the city's land fill, el Vertedero Rafey. I provided a university with their first system for recycling and used the profits from selling their recyclable material to benefit an after school program that keeps kids from going into the dangerous landfill with their parents to collect recyclable materials.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

I am fortunate to work for the Maya Nut Institute, which over the years has developed a significant assembly of partner organizations working all around the world. As my project progresses I will ask them for advice and assistance. I also have a handful of personal mentors and heroes who have contributed to the well being and health of the planet and her people in truly unique ways.