Solidaridad and partners selected for the UN Food Systems Game Changers Lab Challenge

Two submissions in which Solidaridad is involved as partner have been selected for the UN Food Systems Game Changers Lab Challenge. Through this challenge, the UN is making an inventory of all promising ideas, initiatives and innovations aimed at transforming our food system.

The UN Food Systems Game Changers Lab Challenge is connecting the most promising food systems initiatives to peers, experts, relevant networks and funders to enhance their chances of success. The open invitation to this global challenge drew 505 submissions from 85 countries. 

After an assessment against the selection criteria by a group of nearly 100 experts and program collaborators, a number of these solutions were invited to join a cohort of similar solutions and advance into the next phase. Solidaridad was involved in two applications—one from Brazil, and the other from Europe. Both applications were selected for the next phase, the ‘Solutions Accelerator Program.’ 

Solution 1

Transforming urban food

Solidaridad and Santa Food are collaborating to democratize access to healthy food made from local, climate-smart ingredients, creating a positive impact for people and the planet. Together, we deliver healthy, fresh, ready, and sustainable meals, while generating incomes for often vulnerable women working from home and creating market access for peri-urban organic farmers.

Urban centres and their surrounding areas face a web of interrelated challenges with regards to food and the economy. Cities and their surrounding areas are increasingly grappling with a nutritional epidemic as people struggle to access affordable, healthy food options. At the same time, smallholder farmers on the outskirts of cities face an uphill battle securing a reliable market for sustainably produced organic goods. Through this partnership, farmers are trained in good agricultural practices, and connected via a digital platform to urban, home-based cooks, who in turn supply healthy, affordable meals throughout the city. The ‘micro’ nature of this arrangement helps to strengthen local supply chains and markets, while also being more resistant to the shocks of such global disruptions as Covid-19.

The solution integrates previously disconnected groups to generate a cycle of sustainable crop production, income generation and healthy diets. Without reliance on central warehousing, we can decrease losses, transport costs and negative environmental impacts. We also make it easier for smaller players to participate. Many smallholders farmers have a hard time accessing urban markets, and often waste a great deal of their production due to inadequate logistics and planning. 

Santa Food also creates income-generating potential for women who can face challenges with employment outside the home, due to inadequate childcare systems and social norms. In our system, they are trained to become autonomous micro-entrepreneurs. Consumers can access affordable, fully organic fresh meals in convenient ways, following tight production standards.

All of these connections are made possible through a digital system that manages logistics, which we will continue to develop to improve scale and help automate orders across the chain. Santa Food also provides live training to our autonomous cooks — “Santinhas” —  so they can obtain licenses as microentrepreneurs and produce according to set standards. Through the partnership with Solidaridad, the model will also work with farmers to plan and manage crop production based on urban demand, collect food waste for composting, improve their income and closing the loop on food waste. Because the model is decentralized, set-up costs are low, and scaling potential is very high.

Solution 2

Sustainable natural ingredients platform

The proposal ‘Connecting the Dots: Smart Partnerships for systemic transformation of food Ingredient supply chains and marketing’, was submitted by natural ingredients B2B platform 1-2-Taste from the Netherlands, with partners Solidaridad and ProFound, Advisers in Development.

This very complementary collaboration intends to make high-quality sustainably produced natural ingredients easily available, while providing smallholder producers and SMEs with a more equitable share and income.

Technology can be a great contributor for improving efficiency and transparency in skewed supply chains. Nowadays, platforms like Amazon, Alibaba have revolutionized the B2C industry and Nike sells more through Amazon than through physical stores. Technology has created an entirely new ‘platform’ economy, with far more possibilities than ever before. 1-2-Taste and partners Solidaridad and Profound intend to build a sustainable food supply chain for natural and sustainable ingredients using the 1-2-Taste platform.

Why ‘connecting the dots’? When thinking about food systems, most people think about fruits and vegetables, staple food and sources of protein, while food ingredients form an important part of our diets and provide not only for aroma and taste, but also for health benefits. The basis of a healthy system, whether the human body or an ecosystem, is diversity. When connecting a diverse farming system with high value crops for natural ingredients with a diverse online marketing system, this could provide an important driver of sustainable and transformative change. 

This is also the premise of Solidaridad India, who through this collaboration seeks to diversify smallholder soy farming systems with medicinal and aromatic plants and connect the smallholder farmers who produce them to rewarding markets, whether local or international.

As a first step, Solidaridad India will pilot its Trinitea farm-to-fork concept – which was developed for tea – for the medicinal and aromatic plants selected. The products developed from these ingredients will have a QR-code, which will allow buyers and end consumers to trace the ingredients back to their source and learn about how they were cultivated and handled, and about the impact generated from them.  

The collaboration intends to make high-quality sustainably produced natural ingredients easily available, while providing smallholder producers and SMEs with a more equitable share and income. High value natural ingredients could well be the game changer for smallholder farmer communities, as part of diverse, ecological farming systems. While the platform serves as a shop window, with information about products and prices, buyers and suppliers are offered product and sustainability services to simultaneously develop demand and supply of sustainable produce. Ingredient buyers and food producers will be able to find these ingredients through the 1-2-Taste platform. In line with Solidaridad’s ‘Reclaiming Sustainability approach’, Solidaridad and ProFound are developing a screening methodology to measure the true essence of sustainability throughout the supply chain. For this purpose a  ‘Design Lab’ concept is being developed to assist suppliers and buyers to step-by-step comply with the economic, social and environmental principles of sustainability, including a suitable and swift funding mechanism.

In each solution, the specific expertise of each partner, and the passion for open collaboration, creates the space for innovation and transformation in food systems. We look forward engaging with participants from around the globe, and presenting our solutions at the United Nations 2021 Food Systems Summit!