Millets are rich in micronutrients like iron, zinc and folic acid and ideal to combat hidden hunger. Photo: Rao PS, ICRISAT
28
Jul

Four new food products that are disrupting traditional supply chains

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Jamie Oliver’s foundation highlights millet as part of the global food revolution, changing the face of nutrition at home and abroad.

Millets are rich in micronutrients like iron, zinc and folic acid and ideal to combat hidden hunger. Photo: Rao PS, ICRISAT

Millets are rich in micronutrients like iron, zinc and folic acid and ideal to combat hidden hunger. Photo: Rao PS, ICRISAT

With our planet’s growing population, rapidly decreasing land availability and increasingly unpredictable climate, we need to take a closer look at how we feed ourselves. Are we making the most of the space we have? Are we growing food that’s water-efficient and low in waste? Are we getting as much nutritional bang for our buck as possible?

These questions have led a range of innovators to look for sustainable solutions, transforming the way we view, grow and consume food. Here are four LAUNCH Food innovators who are changing the face of nutrition at home and abroad – Entomo Farms, CoffeeFlour, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and HarvestPlus.

Extract from Jamie’s Food Revolution blog. Read the full article here


Millet

Many people associate the word ‘millet’ with bird seed, the pale, straw-like grain we feed to pet budgies and parrots. What gets forgotten is that it’s also a key component in the diets of millions around the world, and has seen its popularity boom in recent years.

One of the advocates for millet as an alternative to more common grains such as wheat is the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),which has launched its Smart Food initiative to help bring millet and other ‘smart foods’ back into the mainstream.

“We say a food is a ‘smart food’ if it meets three criteria: good for you, good for the planet, and good for the farmer,” says Joanna Kane-Potaka, coordinator of the Smart Food initiative and Strategic Marketing and Communications Director at ICRISAT.

“10 years ago, food security was one of the most challenging questions we were facing, but now we’ve expanded on that discussion to include the environmental and nutritional benefits of the food we grow.”

“At ICRISAT we work with farmers working in very arid environments, where people experience high levels of malnutrition and are more likely to be adversely affected by climate change. It became very obvious to us very quickly that the crops that are most suitable for growing in dry soils get the least funding. Instead, we see funding dedicated to growing crops such as rice or maize, which is lacking in terms of nutritional value, leading to a movement away from crops that have traditionally been grown in those areas, which are far more nutritious. This has led to communities in semi-arid tropics growing foods which are less suitable for the environment and lead to a less diverse diet for the local population.”

“We conducted research into traditional crops such as sorghum and millet, and found that not only are they easier to grow in arid conditions, which leads to increased food security, but they are also more nutritionally valuable than other staple crops.”

“Pearl millet is high in zinc, folic acid, and iron – in fact, the only food that is higher in iron are oysters. It’s such an important micronutrient, especially for women and girls who are at higher risks of developing anemia, which can affect their performance at work and school. Finger millet contains three times as much calcium as the equivalent amount of milk, so can be used as a weaning product for babies. It can also help young people and the elderly to develop strong and healthy bones.” “Not only that, but it’s extremely versatile. It can be made into a flour and used to bake cakes, biscuits and pizza dough. Left in its grain form, it’s a great addition to soups, or can be eaten in the same way as rice or couscous. You can even use it in porridge, as a replacement for rolled oats, or instead of rice in rice pudding.”

“However, crops like millet have a bit of a PR problem: not only are they underfunded, making them less commercially viable for farmers to grow, they’re seen as a ‘poor person’s food’.” “What we’ve been working on is changing the image of millet, collaborating with food manufacturers to create convenience products that are more accessible to a broader market. Having seen how popular other traditional grains such as quinoa have become in recent years, there’s no reason why millet might not be the next big thing!”

“The benefits of bringing crops such as millet and sorghum back into the mainstream won’t only be felt in developing countries; there will be huge benefits for people living in other countries that experience a dry climate, such as Australia. With the trend towards ancient grains and superfoods, I think the appetite for smart foods such as millet around the world will continue to grow.”

School children in Maharashtra eating high iron pearl millet "bhakri" (flat bread) as part of their mid-day meal. Photo: Alina Paul-Bossuet, ICRISAT

School children in Maharashtra eating high iron pearl millet “bhakri” (flat bread) as part of their mid-day meal. Photo: Alina Paul-Bossuet, ICRISAT

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger good-health 13-climate-action

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