Food banks around the country are reporting critical shortages

From the New York Times:

Food banks around the country are reporting critical shortages that have forced them to ration supplies, distribute staples usually reserved for disaster relief and in some instances close.

Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.

Link

Supplying Seeds To Farmers In Africa

Another development article on the problem with supplying high yield seeds to farmers in Africa:

“You have farmers who are very willing adopters of new technologies and want to raise yields,” he added, “but are not getting access to seed, fertilizer and small-scale irrigation.”

Finding a sustainable way to supply farmers with seed, he said, “is emerging as the holy grail for agricultural development.”

The Economics Of Malaria Nets

A very interesting development article on Africa. The big story here is that WHO abandoned social marketing as a distribution method to get the nets to people. They benched that method in favor of handing out the nets for free.

Two years ago, social marketing was at the heart of a scandal when it was revealed that the United States Agency for International Development, or USAid, which distributes foreign aid, was spending 95 percent of its malaria budget on consultants and 5 percent on goods like nets, drugs and insecticide. Under attack from several senators championing the fight against malaria, the agency later announced that it would spend at least half its budget on goods.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, called the new W.H.O. policy “a great move,” adding, “We knew social marketing doesn’t work.”

I think they made the right move instead of sticking with a system that wasn’t working. However, we shouldn’t give up on a longer term, sustainable solution!

Externalities From The Ethanol Boom

We’ve heard the critics say how the ethanol boom is causing the price of many of our food sources to rise. The New York Times reports that the United States is buying less than half the amount of food for aid than it did earlier this decade.

The higher food prices have not only reduced the amount of American food aid for the hungry, but are also making it harder for the poorest people to buy food for themselves, economists and advocates for the hungry say.

“We fear the steady rise of food prices will hit those on the front lines of hunger the hardest,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program. The United States is the biggest contributor to the agency.

Tech Museum of Innovation Announces 2007 Tech Museum Awards Laureates

Check out the Tech Museum Award Laureates!

For the seventh year, The Tech Museum of Innovation, one of the country’s premier science and technology museums, has today named 25 innovators from around the world to be honored by this year’s The Tech Museum Awards: Technology Benefiting Humanity. Presented by Applied Materials, Inc., The Tech Museum Awards honor individuals who are applying technology to benefit humanity and spark global change. The esteemed group of Laureates announced today was selected from hundreds of nominations sent in from 68 countries.

Link to press release.

Background:

Established in 2001, The Tech Museum Awards recognize 25 Laureates in five categories: Education, Equality, Environment, Economic Development and Health. These 25 Laureates have developed ways to use technology to improve the environment and the lives of people around the world. All of the Laureates will be showcased at The Tech in San Jose and featured on The Tech Award’s official Web site, www.techawards.org. One Laureate in each category will receive a $50,000 cash prize, announced during the annual Awards Gala, which takes place this year on November 7th. The Laureates are reviewed and selected by an independent international panel of judges administered by the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.

RechargeIT.org: A Google.org Project

From earlier this week, Google announced plans to invest up to $10 million in green startups and has a request for proposals out.

Google.org is committed to finding innovative transportation solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Earlier this summer, Google.org launched its RechargeIT Initiative to accelerate the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology through technical demonstrations, grant-making, advocacy and investments. As part of this initiative, we are issuing a $10 million request for investment proposals (RFP). We plan to invest amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2,000,000 in selected for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologies will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions. This RFP is global in scope, and we encourage responses from companies anywhere in the world.

This is great news, adding more potential investment dollars to the already fired-up alternative energy sector.

OLPC Update: Intel and AMD Vying To Be The Chip Supplier For OLPC

Here’s the latest update on Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child project (aka $100 laptop).

It may have once dismissed the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Project as a “cheap gadget,” but Intel appears to have changed its mind. The company is now involved in talks to provide CPUs for the $100 (actually ~$175) systems.

According to the EETimes, Intel’s newfound interest in the project is just fine with the OLPC design team. “Intel, like a lot of other people, is more than welcome to try to design great silicon for this project and this mission, and we’ve been working with them to help them do exactly that,” said Walter Bender, OLPC’s president.

The article goes on to discuss how the OLPC is powered by an AMD chip but Intel plans to bid with a more powerful chip.