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Ertharin Cousin. Spaghetti for everyone in the world

Economy / -

Ertharin Cousin
World Food Programme

On the day that Milan, specifically Expo Milano 2015, was the world capital of agriculture, with over 50 agricultural ministers, 370 delegates representing 115 countries and international organizations each continent, we interviewed Ertharin Cousin, director of the World Food Programme.

The International Forum on Agriculture at Expo Milano 2015 has enabled a global discussion on the issues and challenges related to nutrition, world hunger and climate change. Delegates from each continent shared their commitments and exchanged ideal policies and practical experiences on agricultural productivity, family farming, and environmental protection. By participating in the third session of June 4, entitled "Agriculture and food security", Ertharin Cousin wanted to give us the key points of the message that, as its Executive Director, brings here the World Food Programme. The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the United Nations, at the forefront in the fight against world hunger. Established in 1961, headquartered in Rome, it feeds an average of 80 million people each year, operating in over 70 countries around the world and saving the lives of men, women, children, refugees and displaced persons, people with AIDS, victims of war and natural disasters.

What is the key message that you, as Director of the World Food Programme, would like to bring to Milan?
I am talking first of all, of course, about food and the ability to end hunger and to end stunting in our lifetime. I also want to focus on the necessary investment in women, in providing an opportunity for women to have access to land, to tools, to credit, to education, to inputs that will ensure that we can actually use their value to support in ending hunger. There’s recognition that we could feed between 100 and 150 million more people if women simply had access, the same access as men, to the necessary inputs, to credit, to tools, to education and to land and so, if we’re going to truly end hunger in our lifetime, we must empower women.

I asked the same question to Myrna Cunningham, the representative of the Permanent Forum of UN of Indigenous People. I asked her “What do you fear most of all for the near future?”  
My worst fear is that we don’t have the public will that we need, the groundswell of support that is required to ensure adequate investment in the tools that will ensure more people can access food, can have food made available to them, can have the required clean water and sanitation to absorb the micronutrients that are necessary. That’s my worst fear!

Within the UN, there is much being done on many fronts. But based on which priorities?
This year, World Toilet Day is focused on clean water and nutrition. There’s a recognition that without food and without clean water, working together, that we cannot overcome the challenges of 165 million children who suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunting. There are close to a billion children who have micro-nutrient deficiencies, who suffer from hidden hunger, so we must have clean water in order to achieve those goals. And so, enabling, or rather moving beyond just enabling projects to truly scaling up the opportunities that we know work, to support more people on a multi-year basis that build the resilience in the poorest around the world to withstand shocks and crises is what is required. And that work will require the global public saying to the leadership “We want you to do more. And we want you to invest our tax dollars in the support of the entire world. We live on a very small planet. And one of the things that we say at WFP is that the future of each of us, is in the hands of the most vulnerable people in the world, because if we do not invest in their prosperity, in their ability to feed themselves, and to eliminate stunting, then we cannot achieve the peace across the world that we all want.

I assume, there is a strong relationship between peace and food.
Yes, you’re right.

So, one last curiosity: do you have a favorite dish that reminds you of home or your childhood?
My favorite dish? Let me tell you, my Dad is from Louisiana and he was a chef before he passed away and his signature dish was his spaghetti! He made an American southern spaghetti that tasted nothing like the spaghetti that you have here, but that the entire community loved.

Since you are the head of the World Food Programme, we can conclude by saying: "We hope there will soon be ... spaghetti for everyone in the world".
For sure! It is the message that underlies my speech today.

The Algae Factory, goodness from the sea

Innovation / -

Ricche in proteine, vitamine, omega 3 e 6, aminoacidi essenziali: le alghe sono i migliori candidati come ‘cibo del futuro’

This startup company develops food concepts based on innovative ingredients, such as Arthrospira algae. To sell them to the food industry, but also to gift them to children in Developing Countries.

Rich in proteins, vitamins, omega 3 and 6, essential amino acids… but their production does not require fertile soil. These characteristics place algae among the top contenders in the “food of the future” category, with the FAO indicating them as a possible remedy for malnutrition. And if many people in the Western world don’t find the idea gastronomically appealing, why not use them as an ingredient in a more inviting food concept? This is the idea inspiring The Algae Factory, a start-up conceived by Pierluigi Santoro, a specialist in agriculture and environmental issues with a degree in Agrarian Science from Florence, and Stefania Abbona, food lover and certified wine expert graduated in Logistical and Manufacturing Engineering from Turin University.
The Algae Factory develops food concepts with innovative ingredients, such as algae, aimed mainly at vegetarians, vegans and people with lactose and gluten intolerance. Their prototypes are then manufactured and sold by food companies already established in the sector, with their own manufacturing facilities.
From Puglia to San Francisco, via The Netherlands
“The algae idea – explains Pierluigi Santoro – was born roughly a year ago in Puglia, thanks to funds obtained through Bollenti Spiriti financing, a program of the Puglia Regional Government, which made it possible to create a company for producing algae. Then we realized that the real challenge was to integrate them in everyday food products, trying to demonstrate their added value in terms of nutritional values and environmental impact.”
“We decided to compete for the Alimenta2Talent competition offered by the Municipality of Milan and the Padania Technological Park, which will allow us to participate in Expo Milano 2015 – continues Stefania Abbona, who also has a Master in Hospitality Management from New York’s Pace University – At the same time, through the University of Wageningen, in The Netherlands, where I had undertaken a Master in Food Safety and Pierluigi another in Environmental Sciences, we took part in the Ecotrophelia Competition, a European competition for eco-innovative foods.
We won the first phase, competing against other Dutch teams, and thus we won the opportunity of representing The Netherlands in the finals, during the SIAL in Paris. The Wageningen University business incubator sustained us a lot, both in terms of finance and networking. This was how The Algae Factory was born, thanks also to the commitment of Gianluca Carenzo, director of the PTP and StartLife, the Wageningen incubator. Thanks to Linze Rijswijlk, we also received further finding which allowed us to develop the first food concept.”
The first industrial collaborations
Backed by this European task force, the social venture company (as the two founders like to call it) is on its way to San Francisco, where Santoro is currently taking part in a Fulbright Program on “Entrepreneurship and Management”. Here the startup has received favorable judgements from various venture capital companies specialized in the food sector.
On top of this, The Algae Factory has begun an important collaboration with Royaan, an important Dutch snack manufacturer, for which it is developing an Arthrospira (aka Spirulina) and vegetable croquette. “This product, suitable for vegetarians, vegans, people with lactose and gluten intolerance or in search of halal food, will be distributed in the Benelux countries and Germany – Santoro assures us – We have various new products in mind which we are about to develop, with other companies and other types of algae.”
“But creating products is not our only desire – adds Abbona – Another extremely innovative aspect of our company is its BITE for BITE social business model: in collaboration with a group of NGOs, we create algae-based products to be distributed free to children in Developing Countries. This is a difficult but extremely rewarding project, but our conviction is that if everyone does something, we really can improve the global society we live in – even if it’s only a drop in the ocean.”

Illustrious diets: What you don’t know about philosophers’ tastes

Culture / -

CF I gusti dei filo imm

A study on the food preferences of some of the most famous philosophers such as Diogenes, Rousseau and Kant, brings to light the vices and theories on food of these great thinkers, who often preferred to dine on fresh fruits, berries and raw meat, choosing a very simple diet that sometimes was at odds with the complex theories they worked on in between meals.

The French intellectual Michel Onfray, a contemporary philosopher known for his eclectic and controversial thoughts, with his book “ Appetites for Thought: Philosophers and Food”, has attempted to answer the curiosities of many about what was the preferred daily diet of some of the best-known thinkers in history. Spinoza loved sober and delicate dishes such as milk soup seasoned with butter and semolina cooked with raisins or chicken broth, while Freud loved daily meals of boiled meat served with different sauces. Nietzsche favored meat stew and pasta, Plato preferred dried figs and olives while Epicurus dined on figs and cheese.
Diogenes and raw food, back to basics
The cynic Diogenes was a raw foodist before it became fashionable. He also ate raw meats, such as octopus, although he preferred plants, such as berries or olives. The golden rule of his daily diet was to avoid cooking food as much as possible. "Raw food" writes Onfray "for him, was a deconstruction of the  value system upon which civilization is based". For this reason, the Greek philosopher refused the element of fire as a symbol of progress and chose for himself a minimal diet that would allow him to go back to basics, to a more wild animal-like time, that he considered purer than that which is generally considered as civilized.

Kant. Severe also at the table
The only meal the Prussian philosopher permitted was lunch. He loved to dine in company and to take his time to sip Medoc wine. "As master of ceremonies", writes Onfray, "Kant directed conversations that avoided clichés and comments on his work." He chose often to eat gluttonous amounts of fresh cod, or tender meat and high quality bread, generously spread with mustard. For the Prussian philosopher, overeating and alcohol were vices that demeaned the spirit. Kant’s diet advocated only a moderate consumption of liquids such as soups and water, preferring instead more exciting drinks like wine.

Rousseau and the return to nature
The author of "Emile" and of "Confessions" loved very simple and natural foods like curdled milk, semolina, vegetables and fresh fruit. He cannot be considered a lover of good food in the strict sense. Onfray in fact says that, if it were not necessary for survival, Rousseau would avoid the hassle of feeding himself. For him, as for Diogenes, it was key to return to the origins of food, foods that were considered healthier, more natural, with few additives and not processed as is found in modern food, corrupted by civilization. For this reason, he avoided fermented beverages and meat. In "Confessions," Rousseau wrote: "I know of no better food than that of a rustic meal. With dairy products, eggs, herbs, cheese, brown bread and passable wine; these are always sure to provide me with a good lunch."

Sartre and his disgust for crustaceans
According to Onfray’s research, the existentialist French philosopher certainly cannot be described as a gourmet, because he did not consider food a pleasure to be enjoyed, but only an act necessary for survival. Similar to Rousseau, but unlike him, Sartre followed a very special daily diet, that was not exactly healthy. His diet consisted of a number of cigarettes, pipes, wine, beer, spirits, coffee and tea. Shellfish and tomatoes repelled him and he preferred artificial processed foods such as sweets, salami and bread. The author of "Nausea", explains Onfray "never ate fruits in their natural form. He preferred fruits transformed by human intervention, for example as part of desert."

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