June 2013


Retired schoolteacher Anne Mary Mabira, 85, with her backyard aquaponics system in Kampala, Uganda. In aquaponics, fish fertilize water for vegetables and vegetables filter water for fish. The technology has been gaining traction in the US, but is still virtually unknown in Africa. Photo: Jon Miller/Homelands Productions.

Keep your ears open for a new batch of What’s for Lunch radio stories about food and climate change on PRI’s The World. The series, part of the Food for 9 Billion project that Homelands Productions is producing with the Center for Investigative Reporting, airs Mondays and Thursdays through most of July.

Today, Homelands’ Jon Miller meets Charles Mulamata, a Ugandan engineer and entrepreneur who’s trying to spark a revolution in aquaponics, a super-efficient (but slightly intimidating) method for producing vegetables and fish in small spaces.

If you miss it on the air, you can find it online on The World’s What’s for Lunch series page.

Upcoming stories are from India, China, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Seattle, and look at issues ranging from human waste recycling to meat alternatives to urban foraging. 

We’ve had a slew of stories broadcast since our last blog post. This past Monday, The World’s Mary Kay Magistad shared a meatless meal with Long Kuan, a Beijing-based pop singer who is promoting vegetarianism and veganism in meat-mad China. Last Thursday, independent producer Sam Eaton reported from Mexico on efforts to revive amaranth, a hardy and nutritious crop that once rivaled corn in importance. And last Monday, Jon Miller sent a dispatch from Qatar, where an international team of scientists is testing a suite of interlocking technologies to produce food, fresh water and energy in harsh desert areas.

You can catch Jon’s TV story about the Qatar project on the Food for 9 Billion website. While you’re there, you can watch the four other features we produced (from SingaporeIndiaCosta Rica and California) for PBS NewsHour on the week of June 10, and hear all the radio stories that have aired to date on The World, including reports on vertical farming in Singapore, China’s “clean your plate” campaign, industrial-scale low-carbon eating in Boston and the debate over GMOs in Uganda.

In fact, if you keep clicking the “next” button at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a trove of radio and TV stories, videos, blog posts and interactive features going back to November 2011.



A Stanford University research technician erects a net on a Costa Rican coffee farm. The team has identified more than 100 species of birds on farms and associated patches of forest as part of a project to calculate the value of biodiversity. Photo: Sam Eaton/Homelands Productions.

It’s the biggest week yet for the “Food for 9 Billion” project, with five stories scheduled to air on PBS NewsHour and two on PRI’s The World.

Today on the NewsHour, Sam Eaton visits Costa Rica, where farmers and researchers are finding that biodiversity isn’t just good for the environment, but also boosts productivity and profits. Also today, on The World, Mary Kay Magistad eats a meal with the organizers of a grassroots campaign to cut down on food waste in China, where leaving food on your plate is a sign that you’ve made it.

Tuesday on the NewsHour, Jon Miller travels to Qatar to visit a high-tech experiment in transforming sunlight, seawater and carbon dioxide into food, fuel and fresh water. On Wednesday, also on the NewsHour, Sam reports on an ultra-efficient vertical vegetable farm in Singapore.

On Thursday, Jon reports for The World from Uganda, where scientists and activists have staked out very different positions on genetically engineered virus-resistant cassava. Also on Thursday, on the NewsHour, Sam visits farmers in India who are returning to their traditional seeds to protect themselves against the ravages of climate change.

Finally, on the NewsHour on Friday, Serene Fang and Susanne Rust of the Center for Investigative Reporting look at California’s resource-hungry dairy industry, which is turning to China as domestic markets dry up.

As always, if you can’t catch the stories on the day of broadcast, they will all be archived at Foodfor9Billion.org, along with slideshows, interactive graphics and other goodies.

Boston Fish Pier

Helene York, right, of the food service company Bon Appétit, works with suppliers and chefs to reduce the climate impact of the meals served at the company’s roughly 500 cafeterias. Jared Auerbach, of Red’s Best Seafood in Boston, recently began to sell fresh, locally caught fish to area companies and institutions. Photo: Jon Miller/Homelands Productions.

By now most of us know that what we eat has an impact on the environment. And so more of us are putting our money where our mouths are—or our mouths where our money is—ordering green-listed seafood at restaurants or shopping at our local farmers’ market.

Those choices add up. After all, each of us eats more than 1,000 meals over the course of a year. Still, what you or I have for lunch today probably isn’t going to change the world.

But what if you served up 145 million meals a year? Jon Miller met someone who does—and who’s trying to make it count.

The story airs today, June 6, as part of the “What’s for Lunch” series on PRI’s The World. Listen for it on the radio or catch it later online, where you can find photos and links to other stories.

And a heads up for next week: PBS NewsHour will air one story per day in a veritable “Food for 9 Billion” extravaganza. On Monday, Sam Eaton takes us to Costa Rica, where scientists and farmers are learning the long-term value of biodiversity.

Jack Ng at SkyGreens in Singapore

Engineer-entrepreneur Jack Ng shows off a water-powered system he designed for his vertical farm, called SkyGreens, in Singapore. The plants are grown in composted food waste. Around the world, farmers are finding ways to produce food using less land, water and fossil fuel. Photo by Sam Eaton/Homelands Productions.

For the last year and a half, the “Food for 9 Billion” project has examined the many-sided challenge of keeping ourselves fed at a time of rapid social and environmental change. Yesterday we launched a new chapter, called “What’s for Lunch,” a series of features on PRI’s The World and PBS NewsHour that look at the connections between what we eat and our changing climate.

In our first piece, producer Sam Eaton visits SkyGreens, a super-efficient vertical farm in the heart of Singapore. A companion piece will air next week on the NewsHour. For a taste of what else is coming, check out this blog post from The World’s environment editor, Peter Thomson.

We’re using the hashtag #Whats4Lunch on Twitter and Instagram. If you’re an Instgrammer, you can upload a photo of your climate-changed lunch along with an explanation of how it’s different.