MealFlour: Mealworms for improved nutrition

MealFlour teaches people to build environmentally sustainable mealworm farms and make a protein flour to improve diets and increase income.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Guatemala

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Guatemala: Quetzaltenango


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Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Protein deficiency affects over ⅓ of children worldwide, leading to lifelong consequences for physical and cognitive development. Traditional sources of protein release significant carbon emissions, require large amounts of water and land, and can be too expensive for families. Guatemala, where MealFlour operates, has the 4th highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. In rural, indigenous communities 70% of children under 5 are stunted because of chronic malnutrition.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

MealFlour teaches people to build and maintain environmentally sustainable mealworm farms and turn mealworms into a protein rich powder that can improve diets and be sold to increase income. The train-the-trainer model used to teach participants ensures the program is sustainable. Growing mealworms is simple and requires minimal space and water. The farm can be made from upcycled materials such as plastic jugs. Mealworms eat organic waste that would normally be thrown out, such as banana peels. Compared to traditional livestock, such as cows, mealworms need 2000 times less water to produce the same amount of meat. Mealworms also emit significantly less greenhouse gases than other livestock, and their frass is an excellent fertilizer. Mealworms are easy to roast and grind into a powder that is 46% protein and contains all essential amino and fatty acids. This powder is easy to incorporate into foods people already make, so they don’t have to change their diet to improve their nut

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

MealFlour completed its first training in 12/2016 with 5 women in a rural Guatemalan community. The women are harvesting mealworms to feed their families. Our monthly focus groups and weekly follow up allow us to evolve to better meet the needs of the community. We started our 1st train-the-trainer program in 05/2017. 5 community leaders will each go on to train at least 5 other individuals in their community. In 2016, we also worked with 43 students who were interested in teaching others to grow mealworms after they graduate. Since the start of our pilot, we have formed more partnerships with organizations elsewhere in Guatemala who are interested in incorporating the MealFlour program into their work. We have also partnered with businesses interested in purchasing mealworm powder from the people we train. With sufficient funds and capacity, we can leverage these relationships to expand our pilot to help more families reduce malnutrition and increase their income.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Individual donations or gifts 75%, Grants 25% As MealFlour refines our training program in Guatemala, we will continue to pay for all associated costs. After the pilot, other NGOs and community organizations will use their own funds to bring the program to their beneficiaries. MealFlour is more sustainable and cheaper than a common solution to protein deficiency; buying nutritional supplements for beneficiaries. These supplements require constant spending, whereas the MealFlour training provides families with a source of protein for years, which is the primary reason that NGOs will want to invest in mealworm farming. We demonstrated the feasibility of this model in September 2017 when one of our partner NGOs paid for 7 women affiliated with the program to start their own farms.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

MealFlour empowers families to produce their own source of protein using mealworms.The use of edible insects to improve nutrition is innovative, and the emphasis on turning the mealworms into a powder ensures that families can easily incorporate this new source of protein into the dishes they already make. Working with partner organizations to run train-the-trainer programs is also novel in the field of nutrition programs and guarantees sustainable improvements in nutrition.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

In 2015, co-founders Elizabeth Frank, Joyce Lu, and Gabrielle Wimer were discussing their experiences working on global health projects in Nigeria, Rwanda, and Guatemala and the unsustainable practices they had observed. They realized real change could only come from programs that acknowledged the interconnected issues at the heart of malnutrition. The team began thinking of how to solve the interrelated problems of malnutrition, poverty, and waste in a way that avoided the pitfalls they had encountered in their previous work. Edible insects emerged as a solution that embodied all of their goals.

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Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Really promising. Good work.

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