This tiny piece of paper can keep fruits and vegetables fresh 2 to 4 times longer.

This small sheet of paper could help remove one of the biggest obstacles to getting fresh food to those who need it most.

All photos via Fenugreen, used with permission.


It's called FreshPaper, and according to inventor Kavita Shukla, it preserves fruit and vegetables two to four times longer than conventional storage methods.

Shukla came up with the idea when she was 12 years old while visiting her grandmother in India.

Shukla as a toddler with her grandmother in India.

After accidentally drinking a glass of water from her grandmother's tap despite having been warned before to drink only purified water, Shukla began to fear she would get sick.

"My grandmother didn't have a lot in her kitchen, and she came back with this murky brown mixture, which was kind of like a spice tea," Shukla told Upworthy.

Shukla drank the tea and didn't get sick. And while there is no way to know if the tea really helped or not, it gave her an idea: Certain spices have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

Could these same spices help prevent food from going bad?

Years later, while Shukla was working on a $300 budget in her apartment, FreshPaper was born. It's a small, paper sleeve infused with some of the same spices in her grandmother's tea mixture. It can go in any container that stores produce, looks similar to a dryer sheet, and is reusable.

"When I first developed it, I really had people like my grandmother in mind," she said.

Despite the fact that millions of people don't have enough to eat, the world wastes a surprising amount of food.

According to a 2014 National Geographic report, up to one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted or lost. The problem is especially acute in areas of the world without adequate refrigeration infrastructure, which causes food to spoil. India alone has to scrap between 30% and 40% of its fruits and vegetables.

"People still go hungry every single day because of all these inefficiencies in food distribution," Shukla said.

It's a problem that is familiar to many American families as well.

"Mostly when we are talking to people who are living paycheck to paycheck, the food-purchasing decisions they're making are entirely based on what they can afford, and sometimes it's not a good economic choice to buy fresh fruits and vegetables," Shukla said. The quicker food spoils, the less cost-effective it can be for a struggling family.

Shukla and a partner first began selling FreshPaper at a farmers market in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

According to Shukla, they were shipping the product all over the U.S. and to over 30 countries worldwide within a year. As of Oct. 29, 2015, FreshPaper boasted an average 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

"This is an amazing product. It does exactly what it says and keeps berries fresh much longer," writes one reviewer.

For Shukla, however, bringing the product to market is just the first step. Other products can preserve perishable produce after all, but many are non-biodegradable or require refrigeration. Shukla hopes to leverage FreshPaper's simplicity, accessibility, and environmental friendliness into a truly global social enterprise that can help bring much-needed aid to hungry people around the global.

A cheap, effective method of preserving perishable food could be a godsend for people who don't have consistent access to refrigeration.

Shukla is currently looking to partner with food banks and NGOs to make the technology accessible to families in need.

In the meantime, FreshPaper is a finalist for the chance to win a Super Bowl ad and is actively seeking votes. Shukla hopes this will increase visibility of the product and help start a discussion around food waste.

That discussion comes not a moment too soon.

For the many families around the world who struggle to put food on the table, any help is much needed and long overdue.

"FreshPaper's creative solution to cutting food waste is needed in light of the fact that about 40 percent of our hard-working farmers' produce never reaches our stomachs," Dylan Menguy, spokesperson for the Washington D.C.-based Capital Area Food Bank told Upworthy in an e-mail. "As technology evolves, we are glad to see creative solutions to this heartbreaking problem."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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