UNL Team Gets Spot in International Food Insecurity Competition Finals

May 28, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. — A team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students will take its idea for helping solve global food insecurity to an international competition in Germany this fall. At stake is a $10,000 grant.

The UNL team already has received $1,000 of seed money, thanks to being one of five finalists chosen from over 100 competitors from around the world. The goal is to come up with solutions to the globe's food insecurity problem, said Justin Van Wart, a post-doctoral student in agronomy.

The Thought for Food contest is sponsored by Syngenta and Sandbox. In addition to Van Wart, members of the team are: Chris Proctor, a doctoral student in agronomy; Tobi Louw, a doctoral student in chemical engineering; Zach Christensen, undergraduate student in biochemistry; and adviser Martha Mamo, soil scientist in agronomy.

The UNL team calls itself CrOpportunity. Members set out to find an idea "that would catch on at the grass roots and spread and that wouldn't cost a lot of money," Van Wart said.

They came up with the notion of giving consumers an option at participating restaurants of reducing their meal to healthier portions while still paying full price, with the difference in cost going to an organization that helps fight world hunger.

Van Wart said this concept simultaneously addresses two food issues: Many Americans eat too much while people in developing countries often don't have enough food. He and his team believe many consumers, if provided some simple facts about this dichotomy, would choose this option. Consumers would have the option to go to their website to pick the organization they want to donate to. Team member Zach Christiansen already has helped develop a Smartphone app, PickIt, which does something similar.

Van Wart said the team envisions products or businesses being labeled as "food-secured," much as some products now get a "fair trade" label.

The international competition is in Germany in September. More information is at tffchallenge.com.

Justin Van Wart
402-304-0598
Justin.vanwart@gmail.com

Dan Moser
IANR News Service
402-472-3030
dmoser3@unl.edu