The World Food Program is sponsoring a competition for entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions to fight global hunger.
Lebanon has taken in so many people fleeing recent conflicts in the Near East that it now has the world’s highest per capita refugee presence, estimated at one quarter of the population. The World Food Program says the small Mediterranean country has shown “exceptional solidarity towards people fleeing war and insecurity.” But that solidarity has come with a price: economic and social challenges, a strain on existing resources and already overstretched public services and infrastructure in host communities.
So the World Food Program runs an e-card system as its primary form of food assistance for vulnerable Syrian and Lebanese families. E-cards are loaded each month with $27 per person, and can be used to buy food in any of the 500 contracted shops across Lebanon.
Now, WFP is supporting an innovative program to help Lebanese and Syrian refugees make that $27 go further. A smartphone app called Dalili—Arabic for “my guide”—is designed to collate and display items, prices and promotions at the contracted shops. Without leaving their homes, people receiving WFP assistance can browse local stores and easily find the best prices and deals for the products they want to buy.
“As well as improving the shopping experience for people receiving WFP e-card assistance, the application also aims to boost market efficiency, improve competition and ultimately reduce the prices for most popular products,” WFP says.
It came about as a result of a competition for entrepreneurs who want to help find solutions to global hunger. And that competition is ongoing. As National Public Radio reported, the WFP’s Innovation Accelerator is “gathering an arsenal of ideas to fight hunger—both by brainstorming internally and supporting outside entrepreneurs — to test out in the real world as quickly as possible.”
Winning ideas can get up to $100,000 in funding. Although the Accelerator is in search of additional financial support, from both the public and private sectors, the Munich-based entity is currently funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Federal Foreign Office and the State of Bavaria.
Other projects the WFP has green-lighted include an artificial intelligence program that can analyze images collected by drones after a natural disaster; a food computer that uses sensors to test how variables like temperature and light can be adjusted to yield the best possible crops in adverse conditions; and a hydroponics system that helps people grow crops in arid areas.