The Global Seed Vault — 5 Good Food Ideas

Each week, we present 5 Good Food Ideas driving new innovation on the road to a sustainable good food system. See past Good Food Ideas here.

An Insurance Policy for Our Global Seed Supply: Founded in 2008, the Svalbard Seed Vault stands as a critical insurance policy for our global food supply. It’s a storage facility for duplicate seeds that lies deep within the frozen tundra on a Norwegian island north of the Arctic Circle. The seeds held there are accessed in the event the originals are destroyed in a natural disaster or a man-made calamity. For example, recently, Syria deposited over 49,000 varieties of grain, lentils, cabbage, and other seeds at Svalbard. The vault is set at a temperature (18 degrees Celsius) cold enough to preserve the seeds for centuries, thus serving as an external hard drive for our agriculture system. The vault is run by a nonprofit called Crop Trust that is currently raising money for an endowment that would be able to fund the vault into the future.

Positive Early Results for Philly’s Soda Tax: After only six weeks, the soda tax enacted in Philadelphia appears to have already had an effect on soda sales. One distributor says business is down 45% compared to this time last year. The news may be an effort instigated by anti-tax forces to show the tax’s effect on small business growth and job loss. Soda sales have experienced a sharp decline in recent years due to consumer behavior changes, so the tax is likely only accelerating what is already a growing trend. Businesses dependent on soda sales should already be adjusting. Ultimately, in Philadelphia, a successful tax is one that raises new revenue for the city, to be used for early childhood education and other related policy areas. The results in Philadelphia could prove helpful to other cities attempting to enact similar policies.

Communal Fridges Fight Hunger and Food Waste: As our consciousness around food waste grows, more communities and organizations step up to the challenge. This latest example hails from Taiwan, where a city government launched a “communal refrigerator” program that accepts and stores food donations from restaurants, groceries, and bakeries. People in need can then access and pickup the food at sites where the communal refrigerators are located.

DC Restaurant Feeds the Homeless: By his own calculation, Kazi Mannan gave away 6,000 meals last year. For the last three years, Mannan has served the homeless for free at his Pakastani-Indian restaurant, Sakina Halal Grill, in Washington, DC. The restaurant, which recently changed its name from Mayur Kabab House, has been a downtown DC lunch staple for decades. Mannan is Muslim-American. Using his perch as a small business owner to provide for the poor is done as a matter of faith for Mannan. In this inspiring interview, we learn about Mannan’s journey as an immigrant and social entrepreneur in the US.

Artificial Intelligence in the Kitchen: ChefsSteps is building the connected kitchen of the future. The founders, previously part of the Modernist Cuisine team, aim to make better cooks of us all by feeding a vibrant learning community and creating easy-to-use tools that enhance our home chef skills. One of those tools is Joule, an immersion circulator that heats a sous vide water bath at the exact temperature you want. The tool can be voice-controlled through Amazon Alexa or text-enabled via Facebook Messenger while you chop away. And, because it’s all software-enabled, Joule can be updated, upgraded, and improved. It learns as we learn.

Originally published at on February 28, 2017.