What is coffee flour? Only a brilliant alternative for you and the environment.

Ever see something so elegantly simple it seems genius? Coffee Flour seems to be exactly that.


Image via Coffee Flour.


There was a big problem for laborers and the local regions where coffee beans are grown and picked. You see, there's the bean and then there's the "cherry." Since the bean was the only part that was profitable, the cherry got thrown away. But chucking it can create problems in the environment because the ochratoxins, aflatoxins, and caffeine get absorbed into the streams they're processed near. Additionally, the more pectin is in the water flowing downstream, the more bacterial activity takes place which uses up oxygen that the aquatic life depend on.

And if that weren't enough, workers are at the mercy of the fluctuating market prices for coffee beans, so sometimes they are making OK money and sometimes not.

GIFs via Coffee Flour/YouTube.

But some folks saw a missed opportunity. What about that cherry that was getting thrown away? Could that be good for anything?

After some tinkering, they found out it was!

The coffee cherry is edible, nutritious, contains less caffeine than the coffee bean, and it can be processed into a flour that can be used for baking.

In fact, a contestant on a cutthroat cooking show in Australia got rave reviews for her tart made with Coffee Flour.

Image via MasterChef Australia.

"What makes it special for me is the textures, that really soft, crumbly pastry… I think this might be the best thing you've cooked in the whole competition." — MasterChef judge

If it turns out a worldwide demand exists for Coffee Flour, it could solve both problems for workers in coffee-growing regions.

It's proposed that Coffee Flour could provide more stable income to benefit the local economy and public institutions, and less acidity from the cherry will be absorbed into the land and water.

Dan Belliveau, one of the co-founders of Coffee Flour, explains how their innovation will contribute to reducing environmental strains:

"At the point where the cherry fruit (pulp) is separated from the bean in the depulpers, we capture the pulp at that point and send it through our process to stabilize and dry. We use water to rinse the cherry prior to the depulpers, but post depulpers we eliminate the use of water to transport the pulp, as we want to retain all the nutrients that would normally transfer into the water. This creates a portion of the “honey water" which will no longer be produced. And approximately 80% of the pulp is used for our product (never to see a stream, river or landfill) and the +/- 20% of the pulp that doesn't meet our quality control standards, we encourage to be composted and used in the farms (this is a much more manageable volume for farmers to handle)…"

Here's where Coffee Flour currently has operations set up, and the other coffee growing regions shown are potential new sites as they grow.

Images via Coffee Flour.

Is Coffee Flour all it's hopped up to be?

To be fair, there are some questions and criticisms that if Coffee Flour isn't operated thoughtfully, it could be another well-meaning innovation that hurts more than it helps. For instance, some coffee growers would rather compost the cherries for fertilizer. And some fear that the lion's share of the profit for Coffee Flour will be enjoyed by investors rather than the laborers.

But if the process is instituted fairly, which it looks like Coffee Flour is intending to do, then 50% of the end product should remain in the regions where it's produced to be enjoyed by local consumers, rather than just exported to richer nations. It's completely voluntary for growers to opt in, and doing so provides them expanded options for how to best use the cherries for their business — so they could use some for fertilizer and channel surplus into Coffee Flour. And if Coffee Flour can replace a portion of wheat grown worldwide for flour (the growing of which has way more carbon footprint than its packaging), then it could indeed be a significant win for the environment.

Image via Coffee Flour.

If you want to try Coffee Flour for yourself, one vendor in Brooklyn is offering their goodies for the public to get acquainted. For folks in other areas, you can sign up at Coffee Flour to keep posted about availability in your area.

Coffee Flour could strengthen the coffee-region economies, provide gluten-free options for those who need them, and make a significant impact on the environment. This seems like one of those elegant solutions that's so simple, it's brilliant.

NOTE: No, we weren't paid to write this piece. This is just one of those innovations you stumble across and get so excited about you have to give them some love!

Images via Coffee Flour.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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