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."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less