Overall Food Connect
To address the rising prevalence of cardio vascular diseases amongst young adults from lower to lower middle income groups living in a rapidly urbanising cities, who depend on street food vendors for their nutritional intake by creating a certification system to verify healthy food choices. This will allow users to easily recognize the availability of healthy food options within their location. In parallel, service platforms such as WeChat/Line will be leveraged to connect with users to raise their awareness on the existing certification system while aiming to change their food choices.
Preventable cardio vascular disease (CVD), one of the top causes of deaths in a rapidly urbanising economies around the world, as a result of unhealthy diets. Globally, treatment of NCDs and its cumulative productivity losses, including CVD, will cost the global economy approximately 37 trillion USD and 47 trillion USD respectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends healthy diets as one of the four key means to reduce risks of developing the disease.
However, in a rapidly urbanizing cities with young adults from lower-middle income groups, living a busy lifestyle their main source of food is out of home. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that over 2.5 billion people eat street foods everyday. The main behaviour drivers include cultural norms such as eating together with family and peers, time and budget constraints. In a city like Bangkok, 70% of people eat street food at least two times a day, representing more than half of their nutritional intake.
Given that street food industry is often highly fragmented with limited public support, safety and nutrition quality of food provided are usually unregulated. Nutrition information available to young urban dwellers from lower to lower middle income groups are often unverified hindering their adoption and selection of healthy food consumption practices.
Street food vendors play a significant roles in providing easily accessible and affordable healthier food choices to young adults urban dwellers from lower to lower middle income context who are at higher of developing cardio vascular diseases. Therefore, Food Connect provides a platform to organize street food vendors and consumers together to drive the supply and demand for healthier foods.
Food Connect will work with the public sector, including Ministry of Health and Food Authorities to devise a standards and means of verifying quality food recipes through certifications such as logos. For instance, a visual representation of Food Connect logo on a menu or restaurant would provide user (consumers) with an easy way to identify the availability of healthy options within the restaurants, e.g, less salt, less oil and low sugar.
At the same time Food Connect will work with users to raise awareness about the logo through existing platforms such as We Chat and Line, which are popular among our target groups. The feature includes a reward system to incentivize the users to visit the certified street food vendors, while able to make a selection for healthier options.
This in the long run will help to improve dietary knowledge, leading to adoption of healthy practices which then reduces the likelihood and risks of diet related CVDs
The solution which provides the logo and certification system to street vendors is built upon an existing experience in many countries where easily readable food labeling system (such as traffic lights, star rankings) indicate the nutritional value of package foods and beverages available in super markets. However, there has not been any similar efforts in the informal systems.
Often informal food sector is neglected and penalized for being a source of unhealthy and unsafe foods, however, informal food industry provides source of livelihoods for millions of households. Hence, this is an opportunity to bring service providers together with public sector and consumers in a meaningful way towards achieving greater accessibility, availability and affordability of healthy foods in the market.
Overall Food Connect will enhance health and well being of young adults from lower economic groups living in urban cities reducing their risks of developing non-communicable diseases such as cardio vascular diseases, thereby contributing to SDG 3. By improving nutrition outcome, the project will also contribute to SDG2. Supporting majority of female vendors will allow to support women access to livelihood, reducing poverty and promotion gender equality and women empowerment (SDG 1 and SDG 4)
Our first step after UNLEASH would be to fundraise e.g. via foundations, Ministry of Health grants, investors and international bodies. This would provide starting capital for us to pilot our solution. In parallel with fundraising, we would commence stakeholder engagement.
In the public sphere, we would seek buy-in from the Ministry of Health and food authorities in relevant geographies, and in the private sphere, we would engage the Civil Society Forum for nutrition to help assess young urban adults’ needs and barriers to adopt healthier food behaviours.
Another key stakeholder would be nutritionists and doctors, who would play a key role in verifying the nutritional information that will be provided via the WeChat / LINE platforms. Of instrumental importance would also be engagement with existing platform providers e.g. WeChat / LINE in order for us to test and launch our product.
We would also aim to start our pilot in a small geographical location in Colombo city by raising awareness of healthier food preparation methods amongst street food vendors, while introducing the concept of our Food Connect logo. Thereafter, we would seek to beta test our prototype amongst the first cohort of food vendors who express interest in participating.
Funding requirement 500,000, knowledge to integrate games/reward and loyalty programme integration into the existing platforms (from Wechat and Line)