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.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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