Seeds to Rise
The mission of Rise Nutrition is to leverage technology to better address micronutrient deficiencies in the global health sector.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Young Life El Salvador
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Region of Bajo Lempa, El Salvador
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
I waded 30 yards through the knee deep brackish water of the Rio Lempa at low tide to step foot on Isla Montecristo for the first time at 2am in April of 2014. At the time, the paved roads stopped an hour short of the boat launch where it was still an additional thirty minute boat ride to get to the island - that is if it was high tide and you could dock and didn’t have to wade the rest of the way. I’ve returned to Montecristo and other communities in the Bajo Lempa region many times since that night; gotten to sit with families on their front porches, cook tortillas with the women in their kitchens, hold the hands of the children getting shots in the medical clinic, and walk the long two mile dirt road from the center of the village to the cashew orchard where most of the men work. I didn’t realize that first trip, sitting in a circle with Gio, and Oscar - the community’s young leaders - talking about the manifold needs of the poor and isolated community that the partnership that was forming would change the course of my life and my family 3,000 miles away.
In 2014 I went to Montecristo as an agro-biologist looking to help find solutions to the community’s food access problems. I have returned many times since as a nutrition researcher, identifying micronutrient deficiencies in the population; and helping local non-profits build relationships in the community that have lead to infrastructure improvement and an increase in education access. By far the most telling trip was this past May, when I brought my sister, a data scientist, to Montecristo for the first time. Our team was there to implement data driven solutions for food access. Gio greeted us on his front porch, my sister stuck her hand out to introduce herself and Gio wrapped her in a hug saying, “eres como tu hermana, familia” (you are like your sister, family).
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
El Salvador has a history of violence, poverty, and poor health characterized by a civil war spanning from 1980 to 1992. The civil war forced one million of the country's 6.2 million residents to become refugees, most fleeing to Nicaragua and Honduras. These refugees began returning to the Bajo Lempa region of the country in the early 1990s because it was mostly uninhabited due to inaccessibility and lack of natural resources. Bajo Lempa is on the eastern coast of the country and borders the Lempa River on the west. Public records for health care are severely lacking in this region of the country. El Salvador is somewhere mid-way through the stages of the demographic transition (see attached population pyramid), it is difficult to determine whether population growth will stabilize due to significant migration numbers.
Since the end of the civil war, rural regions of El Salvador have seen little improvement in sanitation, transportation infrastructure, healthcare access, education, and economic development. A driving factor in the languishing well-being of rural Salvadorans has been suppression by a succession of military governments and limited parsing of resources from disproportionately wealthy landowners. Progress on road reconstruction has been slow at best and backsliding at worst, severely limiting the transportation of food, medical supplies, and other essential resources to the region. Not only is food access severely limited in this region, but the climate also limits agricultural production and the safe storage of crops. The day to day struggle of many communities to merely access food substantially limits propensity to pursue adequate nutrition or education. Only 33% of Salvadoran children receive an education past the eighth grade, this coupled with early age for first births and closely spaced pregnancies means that women rarely receive adequate or timely prenatal nutrition education. Many communities in the Bajo Lempa region lack easy access to a medical clinic.
The majority of El Salvador’s rural population lives as subsistence farmers, most rural families consume forty percent less food post-industrialization. An assessment of the cost of nutritious diets in the country has created space for an organized approach to confronting chronic malnutrition among El Salvador’s poorest and most rural communities. In collaboration with key community leaders in Bajo Lempa the findings of this analysis can be used to design interventions targeting the specific nutrient needs of individual communities. Gaps still exist in the provision of aid on this front, but the development of frameworks for analysis and collaboration will allow for greater continuity in humanitarian assistance than has historically been provided by global organizations. Youth and community leaders willingly collaborate with NGOs and development organizations to systematically address the multi-sectoral causes of food insecurity.
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Poor infrastructure and poverty in the rural region of Bajo Lempa contributes significantly to food insecurity for the communities. Although the communities are closely clustered and share many attributes in common, each has community has developed an individualized identity that impacts cultural dynamics related to food access and nutrition. A difference in geographic location of even a few kilometers impacts protein energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies for the population. In the short-term, food sovereignty for Bajo Lempa will look different from community to community. For the communities not bordering the Rio Lempa, water access (and specifically clean water access) is an on-going issue. Insufficient water access contributes to adverse health outcomes, limits crop production, and highlights the need for technology innovations and crop varieties that are drought resistant and have high water use efficiency.
There are extreme environmental factors that heighten the difficulty of reliable and sustainable access to nutritious foods for Bajo Lempa. There is space in the cultural context of local diets to supplement with common foods that meet the dietary needs of the population, the most significant barrier for most families in achieving this is economic. High calorie, non-nutritious foods are more readily available and cheaper than nutrient dense foods. Nutrition education has the potential to address these challenges in the communities and amend diets with simple, low-cost, and sustainable initiatives. The introduction of agriculture technologies that increase production efficiency and food quality is necessary in order to achieve food sovereignty on a community level.
Infrastructure is the largest barrier to the food system looking forward to 2050. Policy change to increase access to fortified foods and stabilize cold chain infrastructure for the most rural regions of El Salvador is one of the most striking challenges. Socio-political instability has continued to deepen poverty and violence in the country and stand in the way of reform that increases education and health. Reliable data and research focused on rural regions can help elucidate food access limitations and create a framework for reform at the national level in order to alleviate pressure for the lowest socio-economic strata.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Rise Nutrition has developed a proprietary optimization algorithm called the Ideal Nutrition Construct (INC™) to identify nutrition deficiencies within a population and generate culturally relevant dietary suggestions based on consumption patterns and geographic parameters of food access . INC™ identifies nutrition deficiencies on a macro and micronutrient level, performs dietary analysis specific to population stress factors, determines parameters of food access, and uses machine learning to generate appropriate dietary suggestions via the Company’s companion software interface tool. Collectively, INC™ guides the design of customized educational, clinical, and agricultural interventions to address micronutrient deficiencies at the population level.
INC™ measures actual dietary intake against the specific needs of high-risk edge-case populations. The product uses a comprehensive micronutrient requirement database to evaluate the nutrition status of a population. The database compiles industry-leading academic research, but the algorithms used to aggregate dietary recommendations from the data are the proprietary property of Rise Nutrition.
Energy expenditure and 24 hour diet recall surveys are used to collect data for the global health initiatives of Rise Nutrition. The surveys are the proprietary property of Rise Nutrition and are designed according to industry standard practices in nutrition research. The Company collects survey data through digitally administered oral interviews.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Rise Nutrition is an international partner non-profit organization working with in-country ministers in rural El Salvador to solve problems of food access in rural communities. The social enterprise uses the identification of nutrition needs to determine parameters of food access and works with communities to fund local enterprises that sustainably solve food access issues using clinical, educational, agricultural, or socioeconomic measures. Rise Nutrition’s mission is to equip communities and leaders to overcome systemic barriers to food access. Rise Nutrition has partnered with other nonprofits working in the Bajo Lempa region for more than a decade. Rise Nutrition has been targeting growth stunting of school children age 2-10 years with clinical assessments to identify acute deficiencies and agricultural interventions to provide fresh foods in a region that lacks access to purchase nutritious foods. Rise Nutrition has been unable to extend its efforts to target women of childbearing age effectively; the organization hopes to more effectively communicate with and target educational information to reach this demographic. Rise Nutrition has built relationships with several community leaders in the region and has established medical education clinics. These access points would be especially useful in gearing a public health marketing campaign to address the issue of prenatal nutrition and low infant birth weight in Bajo Lempa El Salvador.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?