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Blog Action Day: A Solution for Food Deserts

October 16, 2011 3 comments

Smiling Kid

It’s commonly known that food can affect our emotional state.  I’m sure we all can think back to a moment, perhaps in our childhood… perhaps just yesterday, when we took the first bite of some delectable treat and couldn’t help but smile as the flavors swirled around our tongue.  If you happened to be in the company of a friend, you probably even passed some over while exclaiming “you HAVE to try this,” although you secretly wanted them to take as small a bite as possible.

So, in thinking about Blog Action Day 2011′s topic of food, I thought it aligned quite well with the “radiate joy” part of this blog’s mission.  Of course, it’s also commonly known that our world faces an uncertain future when it comes to food security.  Just within the past week, I’ve heard a couple of stories in main stream news regarding changes we can and should make now to ensure that in the future we can support the food needs of 9 to 10 billion people on our planet.   The question remains: what are the design solutions that will empower people around food so they can continue to radiate in joyous situations like the one above?

American Food DesertsPerhaps the most important thing we can do is ensure that everyone has access to healthy, affordable food. In our country alone, it is estimated that roughly 13.5 million people live in a “food desert,” which means that they do not have easy access to healthy, affordable food in biking or walking distance from their home.  for more information about the problems of food desserts, check out the Fast Com. Design Blog post: The “Food Deserts” That Keep Americans Fat.

One step towards addressing the needs of those living in food deserts is currently in pilot testing by a team of Bainbridge Graduate Institute students here in Seattle and is so far receiving a lot of praise: Stockbox Grocers!

Stockbox Grocers

(c) Patrick Robinson / West Seattle Herald

Stockbox Grocers responds to this need with a miniature grocery that’s tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container and placed into the parking lot of an existing business. We innovate on the espresso stand model to build stores throughout urban communities, and provide fresh produce and grocery staples to those who currently without access to good food, where they live.

I am hopeful that this innovation will start to make a sizable dent in our food desert problem here at home and can’t wait until they begin to scale.  If you’re interested in learning more about Stockbox, just drop by for a visit to the their Delridge store if you’re in the Seattle area.  Otherwise, follow them on Facebook and Twitter

African Entreprenurs Embrace the Mobile Web

September 8, 2011 1 comment

As mobile technology continues to spread throughout the world, the mobile phone is going to be the predominant platform for internet access, especially in developing nations where computers may be too expensive for most consumers.  Mobile Web Ghana is supporting entrepreneurs in building out a variety of useful mobile-based applications to make the internet more useful for its African users, as this GOOD Technology post conveys:

Mobile Web Ghana

photo courtesy the World Wide Web Foundation

Step aside, Silicon Valley and Bangalore. A group of aspiring web entrepreneurs in Ghana are looking to turn Accra into the newest startup hub. The nonprofit World Wide Web Foundation is working with local developers through a training program called Mobile Web Ghana to give participants the business and technology skills they need to leverage ideas into successful mobile web companies.

The program kicks off its second training session today, and graduates from the first session in February have already produced 10 different mobile products. The new ventures range from the socially conscious—like Mobi-Reportabuse, a reporting service for domestic violence victims—to the commercial, including sites for selling event tickets and sharing song files with friends over the phone.

“For most people in Africa, the only possibility of accessing the Web is through their mobile phone,” World Wide Web Foundation CEO Steve Bratt says. “So a web entrepreneur must learn to design services that will work on even the simplest mobile devices.” While the entrepreneurs created their first round of apps in English, Bratt says he hopes to see future services created in local languages.

While mobile phones have become ubiquitous in Ghana and other African countries, very few programs and apps cater to local communities, and securing seed money is difficult. The Web Foundation, whose mission is to “promote the Web as an agent of human empowerment,” is spending a million dollars over three years to lay the groundwork in Ghana and expanding to Nairobi, where they recently launched a sister program, mLab East Africa, to work with Kenyan entrepreneurs.

“Working with entrepreneurs in Africa is simply fantastic,” Bratt says. “I believe that in this region of enthusiastic young people, scare resources and dire needs, the creativity of entrepreneurs like those emerging from our program will produce applications of both local and global importance.”

 

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