Food security activist places emphasis on MVPs
IVEY...I know what it feels like to be hungry, I know what it feels like to be food-insecure.

AS the world grapples with the worst food crisis in the last two decades, food security activist Peter Ivey is reminding Jamaicans that we have a natural solution to the food crisis.

Ivey, who is also a writer and trained chef, said Jamaicans have largely forgotten our 'Most Valuable Produce' (MVP).

"The way Jamaicans eat is such a unique way compared to the rest of the world. Where most of the world rely on a handful of staple foods, Jamaica has about a dozen staple foods that we consume every single day so that really sparked something in me," said Ivey.

He explained that MVPs in this case refers to items like: yam, dasheen, cassava, callaloo, ackee, and bok choy, to name a few.

He lamented that Jamaicans are not preparing enough meals with ground provisions anymore which is a part of the food insecurity problem in the island.

In a population of three million it is estimated that 2.3 million Jamaicans are food insecure, a predicament Ivey views as a crisis.

He said that the rationale behind one of his latest project called Mission:FoodPossible (M:FP), a not-for-profit created to educate and feed the food insecure.

"We would go to schools in a parish and train the canteen staff. We identify the MVPs in the community and train them to prepare innovative and low cost dishes with the food that we got them. So, for example, most schools around Jamaica you'll find they prepare fried chicken, stewed chicken, curried chicken and white rice and not enough ground provision, not enough food that is linked to Jamaica's culinary history and traditions. So much of our identity is tied into the foods we eat, that's why we're having children growing up preferring salty food, imported food, foreign food or fast food," Ivey argued.

As a young man who grew up in Spanish Town, St Catherine, the food security activist told the Jamaica Observer, "I know what it feels like to be hungry, I know what it feels like to be food insecure."

He said that's why he created a not-for-profit business, "I wanted to activate my own social purpose in some way and I thought about the way I could do it."

Ivey, who is also founder and CEO of The Reggae Chefs, a culinary services company, has been featured in Forbes and the New York Daily News for his work in food security.

In 2019, Forbes published that Ivey's not-for-profit, "could be the answer to the world's hunger problem".

But it's going to require a significant change in mindset. Ivey said a lot of Jamaica's food security problem is because we have neglected our MVPs.

"If you go to East Africa, people are hungry and food insecure in those places because of political strife, civil war or a lot of these places are located in the desert where water is hard to find so environmental issues might be affecting their food. In other places such as the Caribbean there might be a high import bill, for example," he explained.

"We no longer go to the markets, we no longer utilise our community farmers, we no longer put the farmer as a leader person in our community to provide our food, the supermarket has replaced the farmer in that regard," he continued.

In the same vein, he admitted that a lot of the food that is healthy for us are often the food that requires more challenge to prepare.

"In Jamaica I feel mostly it's a communication and empowerment issue," he stated.

He said solving the food crisis is a multi-pronged approach which involves farmers and chefs as front line workers.

He emphasised that his work as an activist is focused on getting people to explore their social purpose.

"Jamaica can have the next generation of chefs who are not just looking to make money and being global superstars but also looking to create change in their community," he added.

A student participating in the Mission:FoodPossible initiative.
Andrew Laidley

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