Taste of General Mills blog features our decade of work with our founding partner and the impact made in Africa and beyond. Read the story and watch the video HERE.
Today we celebrate you, our volunteers. Thank you for making what we do possible! Click on the image to see a video appreciation.
In 2008, when Indra Mehrotra was asked to bring a nutrition perspective to the early-stage PFS at General Mills, she was immediately hooked on the project.
“What a novel idea,” she remembers thinking. “I was totally enamored.” A decade later, and now working for another Partners in Food Solutions corporate partner, Cargill, she’s still captivated.
“I remember when we started, the idea of technology transfer was so exciting. But the enigma was how we were going to actually do it.” She says the entrepreneurial spirit was part of PFS right from the start, but challenges were presented by different time zones, geographies and the technology, which at the time wasn’t very good at bridging the distance between volunteers and clients. “Phone connections to remote parts of Africa were a real challenge. Once internet connections improved and we were able to better use email, it became a lot easier in so many ways.”
She says today the distance between clients and volunteers — in language, technology and culture — has been diminished considerably because communication is now easier and faster. Plus, the process and tools have been refined. “We’ve evolved
to a much more streamlined process where volunteers can get right to work helping our clients solve problems,” she says.
What keeps Indra engaged is the one thing that hasn’t changed in the past ten years — the focus on safe, nutritious, affordable food and economic development in Africa. “I feel it’s my professional responsibility to do this work,” she says.
Indra has a background in nutrition and now serves as Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Cargill. “Knowing the impact that nutrition has on health, it’s just something
I personally feel I need to do.” And today she says, “I think the focus is evolving from ‘food security’ to ‘nutrition security’ and that’s important.”
“I always believed that we could make an impact, and now we can see the results. I can see the changes made by our clients as a result of the knowledge volunteers have imparted,” she said, “Most of our client companies have benefited because they really just needed a boost.”
And it is that boost that she says is exactly what is needed on a continent that has the potential to not only feed itself, but help feed the rest of the world. “We have to unlock the potential of Africa. It must be brought into the system in order to solve global food insecurity.”
Over the past year, the PFS Direct Model - a program where we directly employ food technologists in Africa - has grown considerably. We now have food techs in six countries and in October they were all able to visit our PFS office in Minnesota for two weeks of training and teamwork.
One of the most significant parts of the trip for the field team - Daouda Sangare (Cote d'Ivoire), Christian Dedzo (Ghana), Vivian Maduekeh (Nigeria), Johnson Kiragu (Kenya), Edwin Gafa (Uganda) and Daniel Mwape (Zambia) - was the opportunity to visit all six of our corporate partners during their time in the US. These visits exposed the team to the vast capabilities of our corporate partners, provided unparalleled learning, and gave them the opportunity to appreciate the breadth and depth of expertise available to them and the African food companies they serve. PFS co-founder John Mendesh told the team “There’s not a problem our clients face that one of our corporate partners hasn’t come up against already.” Thanks to all of our corporate partners for hosting our team!
Another important aspect of the trip was the opportunity for the whole field team to be together in person. They were able to share their own experiences and best practices in sourcing clients, relationship management with clients and volunteers, scoping projects and fine-tuning some of the tools they are using in the field.
Other highlights included meeting with many of the volunteers in person for the first time and attending a Minnesota Wild hockey game. By the end of the two weeks, each of our food techs left with new knowledge and a feeling that they are an integral part of a larger community working hard to improve food security and quality in Africa and beyond.
Partners in Food Solutions awarded grant to explore small and medium enterprise data challenges in making business decisions
In May 2018, Partners in Food Solutions was awarded a $30,000 Catalyst grant from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) to move from impact measurement to impact management; from gathering data to using the information to make key performance decisions for ourselves – and more importantly - for our clients. To achieve this, the grant will begin by exploring how information is used by high-potential Kenya food processors in their day to day operations and demonstrate how to harness the power of their own data to make better informed business decisions.
PFS will work with each client to uncover an operational issue which would be clarified with data – for example, sales performance of a certain product line – and demonstrate appropriate ways in which their information could be analyzed, presented or improved. At the end of this twelve-month cycle, each client will have a report tailored to their specific issue and simple, actionable ideas to put in to practice. PFS will have a better understanding of what business outcomes these processors' desire to track, the challenges clients face in collecting and analyzing their data and how best to set them up to capture this information in the future.
The overall ANDE Catalyst Fund objective is to increase the productivity and effectiveness of ANDE members while creating tools and insights that can help the small-and-growing business sector as a whole. Awards went to organizations that agreed to test measurement tools, frameworks, and analytical approaches, and who are willing to share lessons with ANDE members in order to move impact measurement and management forward. Other winners included: B Lab East Africa & Genesis Analytics, Acumen, Genesis Analytics & Impact Amplifier, CapitalPlus Exchange and Engineers without Borders Canada. This funding round is generously funded by Department for International Development’s (DFID) Impact Programme.