Solving world hunger is complicated. This brilliant solution is one we haven't seen yet.
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General Mills Feeding Better Futures

Would you eat food grown on top of a landfill? Your first reaction may not be the right one.

Right now, you're probably feeling a little grossed out. Who could ever imagine that food grown on top of a dump could be edible?

But here's something even more sobering to consider: one in eight Americans struggle with food insecurity.


Food deserts are a huge contributor to that statistic. These are remote places (often rural) where local produce isn't readily available. Few grocery stores sell fresh food there, they don't have farmer's markets (something many of us are used to in metropolitan areas) or community vegetable gardens.

That's where Joy Youwakim comes in. She discovered an innovative approach to growing produce while she was a senior at The University of Texas at Austin which could help solve the problem of food deserts across America (and maybe the world). And yes, it involves landfills.

There's no denying we need to change the way we grow food, and we have to do it quickly. Produce grown on landfills may be a solution.

Joy Youwakim. Photo courtesy of General Mills.

Youwakim's worked hard to create ideas for sustainable agriculture that will feed as many people as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.

The idea to grow food on top of a landfill came to her when she spent a summer working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. When a colleague showed her an image of a local landfill, she was surprised by its appearance — it looked more like a dirt hill than the piles and piles of garbage that we often see at the local dump. Her first thought was unorthodox to say the least: "We could grow food on top of it."

The response she got from her professors wasn't encouraging. In fact, Youwakin's idea was soundly rejected from the beginning. She was told that her project was untenable.

But Youwakim's drive to solve hunger helped her push forward, past the rooms full of "no's."  She spent the next 13 months making phone calls and writing proposals to make her landfill garden dream a reality.

In the end Youwakim was given permission to use the landfill as a test site for growing produce. And, eventually, she was able to harvest lettuce, onions, Calendula flowers, radishes, cantaloupe, cucumbers, bell peppers, and eggplants. Not a bad haul. And when you consider that one landfill (390 acres) is projected to feed up to 32,000 people with 1.7 million pounds of food, her results seemed like a significant step in the right direction.

Today, Youwakim's poised to take her work and education even further. General Mills and their Feeding Better Futures program helped make it possible.

Photo courtesy of General Mills.

In 2017, Youwakim was a finalist in General Mill's Feeding Better Futures Scholars Program, a competition that gives youths aged 13-21 a chance to solve today's most pressing food problems. They're partnering with young adults across North America to support in-action solutions for hunger, food waste, and sustainable agriculture.

Becoming a finalist meant that Youwakim could really propel her work forward. The industry leaders that General Mills connected her to helped her center and focus her motivation. And the money she was awarded allowed her to accept a USDA scholarship to work towards a Master's in Agriculture, Environment and Sustainability studies at UT Rio Grande Valley — something she hadn't been able to consider before.

"Even with the scholarship for Graduate School, I don't think I would have been able to [go] without that financial security," she says.

Youwakim says that it's often hard for younger people to believe they can make a difference. "We think, 'Oh, I just can't. Everything is pre-decided for me,'" she explains. Her project is a testament to that being patently untrue. It's taught her to expect more from herself and push in even when the going gets tough.

"We have a ton of possibilities," she says. "If you're willing to fight for something, if you're willing to make enough phone calls and argue enough for it, it can totally happen, and probably be bigger than you."

Do you have a creative idea like this for ending hunger? General Mills wants to hear from you.

Photo by Bishka Nguyen on Unsplash

If you live in North America, are 13-21, and have a solution to fight hunger, reduce food waste and grow food more sustainably, you could win $50,000 to turn your dreams of affecting change into reality. One grand prize winner will receive the cash scholarship, mentorship from industry leaders, and a chance to present their project at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Two finalists will receive $10,000 to kick start their projects.

There's no question. You're needed in this fight:

"Hunger is very complicated. If hunger was easy to fix, it wouldn't be a problem today. It's really complex and political. It has many layers," says Youwakim.

"If you have an idea, and you want something badly enough, you truly can have it.  It was really just me and the landfill for a while until I applied for the scholarship, and then there was all of this response. It's important to believe in yourself and what you're doing. Everything else will follow."

To learn more about Joy Youwakim's project, check out the video below.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

This article originally appeared on 1,14.15


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