Nutrients are a connecting thread between us, the food we eat, and the environment from which food comes, affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. Nutrients for All: Vitality for People and the Planet is a recently launched movement to encourage leading social entrepreneurs and innovators to reverse current agriculture technology trends and misaligned incentives focused on quantity instead of content.
The idea aims to redesign each stage of the food value chain so that nutrient interventions are inserted into ecosystems, farming, food production and overall wellness. Besides the fact that nutrition is a fundamental human right, investing in nutrients is also just plain smart.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Better health: Let's face it, there is a connection between what we eat and where it comes from. If we want to get the full value out of whatever ends up on our plate, we have to make sure we're taking care of the environment and our soils. Conservation is not just an ecological issue -- it is a public health issue. Investing in nutrients is not only beneficial to our health, but it will also result in fewer pesticides, less land stress, and smarter farming techniques.
2. Local innovation. According to ThienVinh Nguyen of Ashoka Changemakers, "If you're not buying from a local farmer, chances are that the meal you're eating has travelled more than 1,500 food miles to get to your plate." While the benefits to eating local are plenty (greater variety, fresher therefore having an increased nutritional value, and containing fewer chemicals) -- the truth is that eating local is not always easy. Everything from the higher price of local food to the access to location and distribution channels of fresh local food serve as barriers to lower-income individuals and families. However, focusing on a new methodology around nutrient flows forces us to get local, creative, and innovative.
3. Win for Farmers. While farmers provide a number of ecosystem services that go beyond the basics of food production including tilling soil, managing water flows, preventing soil erosion -- often, they are only compensated for producing the highest amount of end products. Focusing on "nutrient processes" offers farmers a new way of valuing and compensating their labor -- the kind that provides broader benefits to society.
4. Economic Productivity: Healthier employees mean more productive employees. Why should microfinance institutions care about the health and nutrient intake of their borrowers? Simple: risk mitigation. The link between the farmer, her land, and her health goes all the way up the value-chain, creating clear economic incentives for nutrients as part of the lending contract.
5. Lowering the Price of Health: "Organic" and "nutrient-rich" food generally conjures up images of local food consumption, DIY groups, and farmers' markets catering to segments of middle-upper class populations. However, if we want all consumers to have affordable access to nutrient-rich food, we need to tap into food industry economies of scale and lower the price of nutrient-rich food for all.
Curious about how to help build a nutrients for all movement? follow along here.