Five UT Students Look for a Hunger Fix

Published: Jan 25, 2013
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat.

When Dave Wistocki ’13 and his team think about hunger, they think big. So big they are figuring out a way to feed 200 million people by 2018, and win $1 million in startup capital in the process.

Wistocki, Dory Estrada ’13, Kaushal Vaddiraj ’13, Phil Michaels ’10 MBA ’14 and Tammy Charles ’14 MBA are all shooting for the Hult Prize, a startup accelerator for social entrepreneurship in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative. The theme-related contest in the past has focused on issues like education, housing and water. This year it’s the global food crisis.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. This number has fallen by 130 million since 1990, but progress slowed after 2008. Of those hungry, women account for more than 60 percent of this population though they make up a little over half of the world’s population.

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition. It’s an issue at my core,” said Wistocki, who has modified his eating habits based on the strength and energy a healthy diet can provide him.

Last semester Wistocki was working on a business plan competition for a social enterprise when he first heard about the Hult Prize. The business plan his team of three was working on focused on severe malnourishment prevention for impoverished communities by using microenterprising females to distribute malnourishment products provided by USAID, much like an Avon business model.

With a few tweaks, Wistocki thought he could submit a similar idea for the Hult Prize. So he assembled a team to begin the process.

“For something like this you need people who will take ownership over it,” said Wistocki, an international business, entrepreneurship and accounting major. “I looked for people I’ve worked with in the past and who have amazing drive and leadership skills.”

Estrada, an environmental science major, is “a powerhouse,” who brings a scientific perspective to the group. Charles has done previous work in Haiti and is familiar with the functionality of urban slums. Vaddiraj, an economics major, grew up in India and brings a global view to the table, and Michaels, who received his bachelor’s degree in allied health and pre-medicine, currently works in nutrition education.

“As a pre-med student in my undergraduate career, I was always enthused by health and vitality,” Michaels said. “Social entrepreneurship creates a value to the world, and I can only dream to be a part of such a project.”

Estrada said social entrepreneurship is a new concept for her, but one that she is excited to have found.

“As an Environmental Science major, I have learned a lot about renewable resources and how they can be implemented to save money, clean up the environment and build a more sustainable society,” Estrada said. “These are not lofty ideas. They are real, tangible solutions that can be brought to developing regions because the technology exists.”

In December 2012, the team submitted its statement of purpose to the Hult Prize committee. In early January, they found out it was accepted and they move on to the regional finals in Boston on March 1. The team has received a 27-page case study they are now poring over and are developing ideas to tweak their original plan, which now might include aquaponics or composting.

The team meets regularly to go over their research findings, talk about their interviews with local social entrepreneurs and brainstorm. If they pass the regional finals in Boston, they advance to a summer business incubator and if successful there, the top six teams will pitch their ideas to the Clinton Global Initiative. The prize is $1 million in startup capital to implement their plan.

“As the team has discussed ideas, I’ve realized how what we are building together has the potential to be larger than life, and change all lives in the process,” Estrada said. “I hope to be proud of the final solution we bring to Boston in March, and see it through to reality.”

 

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