Caribbean Chef combats food insecurity by ‘rebranding’ neglected crops

A report from Loop Cayman.

“As you know, World Food Day is a very important day for the work that we do with Mission:FoodPossible. Our mission is grounded in identifying what are the most valuable produce (MVP) to our communities and then training the community to utilize these foods to alleviate hunger and food insecurity.”

Peter Ivey, Founder of Mission:FoodPossible and CEO of The Reggae Chefs, sits before me via Zoom, fresh from a World Food Day cooking special, produced by Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in which him and Chef Patrice Harris-Henry, the Executive Chef of Mission:FoodPossible and The Reggae Chefs Jamaica, teach Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, hon. Floyd Green how to make a variety of meals with dasheen, otherwise known as taro.

Why dasheen, you ask?

Dasheen is one of a variety of Caribbean crops such as cassava, yam and other roots and tubers that tend to be regionally important but not traded around the world and receive minimal attention. “Orphan crops” as they are called, provide a tremendous opportunity for Caribbean food security. They are climate adaptable, environmentally resilient, affordable, high yielding and nutritious.

Dasheen, which Chef Peter claims to be his favourite crop, contains dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as high levels of vitamin A, C, E, B6, and folate, as well as magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and copper. It can withstand hurricanes and extreme flooding, requires little water for growth, is soil-friendly which means that it can help soil to absorb carbon from the atmosphere (which helps with global warming) and is affordable.

But given that orphan crops are frequently marginalized and overlooked, food activists such as Chef Peter are tasked with the “PR opportunity” to “rebrand” these crops, raising their profile so that their positive impacts can be felt across Caribbean societies, economies and the environment.

“One of the questions I get asked all the time is how to promote underutilized, neglected or orphan crops on a large scale,” says Chef Peter. “Well, the answer is simple, but execution isn’t. We would need a buy-in and the active support of governments, chefs, NGO’s, media companies, the private sector, influencers and the community.”

Peter knows just how to do this.

In addition to his appearance on the World Food Day cooking show with Minister Green, he is about to launch his second children’s book, “Dasheen Island” and just this morning, he has asked his network of influencers and chefs to share a “dasheen promotional video” with the hashtag #dasheenmvp across all of their social channels. In just a few hours, the short clip has already received hundreds of shares across the Caribbean and the United States.

Now that’s an influencer campaign!

“My experiment proves that a little effort and buy-in can go a long way in raising awareness of underutilized crops and having a positive impact on food security,” says Chef Peter.

To get involved, share the video below with the hashtag #dasheenmvp.

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