It was August 2017 and my son Victor was heading back to university in Michigan as a sophomore. Given all the stuff he needed to take back, I suggested we drive from our home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It would be a great bonding opportunity with over 13 hours travel each way through Canada which sounded like fun! The other benefit was plenty of time to think, especially on the way back alone and at my age, there is a lot to think about.
I came to the US in August 1979 as a young man to attend university. It was a surreal time. Revolution had just broken out in my own country and having grown up in secure upper-middle-class life, the thought of an actual revolution was as absurd an idea as someone predicting a full-blown physical revolt here in the US today! But even with the political unrest, I never thought I would not go back home, I was simply making plans for the future, like any other teenager.
At the age of 19, not being able to pursue my dream job as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, I settled on a path in Computer Science. Learning the very fundamentals of how the computer system is designed and programmed was intriguing and fun! That early exposure launched me into the high-tech world where I have thrived ever since. I enjoyed the constant challenge and exercise of my problem-solving skills in leading-edge technologies which had, and continue to have, a profound impact on people lives and cultures. And I took full advantage of experiencing those cultures living on 3 different continents with a 13-year stint in France and now over 20 years combined in the US. I take pride in having been able to learn and experience so much and am grateful my dream to do this came to fruition. Multiculturalism is at the core of who I am and therefore permeates how I conduct business.
Fast forward to 2014 when a good friend who had built a strategic management consultancy in health care asked me to collaborate with him. My immediate response was that I knew nothing of the healthcare world, but he felt my leadership and strategic experience would be of great benefit to many health systems in the US. I accepted and began a journey of health education which has fueled my current passion.
Affordable health care legislation, known as Obama Care or ACA, meant US health care providers would soon need to shift their patient-care model from volume to value which is far easier said than done! In researching how this could be accomplished I learned some very disturbing cold, hard facts. In the US alone, we spend about $3.3 Trillion dollars a year on health care or as some refer to it, sick care. This rate of increase is higher than the rate of inflation! Currently, we spend over $10,000 per year, per person, twice as much as any western European country and for the first time a few years ago, life expectancy dropped and dropped again in 2017.
Something is clearly wrong with this equation!
If spend per capita is an indicator of the health of any nation, the US should be the healthiest nation on planet earth. But it is not! Currently, about three-quarter of American men are considered obese or overweight. Women are only slightly better at 60%. Why is that?
The prospect of a shift to value-based patient outcome was appealing to me and I thought, “I can have an impact.” However, the politicization of Obama care and the fundamental divide in the nation’s view of healthcare as a privilege vs. a right made the dream of healthy neighborhoods a far-fetched reality. But far-fetched is where technology innovation has always lived.
The rate of change, and introduction and adoption of technology has never been greater. But every innovation is a double edge sword and the harmful impact of progress will not be seen for decades to come. The industrialization of our food supply, use of GMO seeds, herbicides, pesticide and lack of long-term studies has had a significant negative impact on us as humans and the rest of nature. Wireless towers, WIFI at home and soon 5th Generation GSM are permeating our environment, but do we know or acknowledge the potential for negative outcomes? By legislation passed in 1996, we are not allowed to challenge when operators are pervasively installing these types of antennas in our neighborhoods based on health impact. So, we live in the blind until proof is felt on a daily basis or we are financially forced to consider alternatives. Sadly, it is the same with food.
I love good food. When I first arrived in the US forty years ago with no access to authentic food from my homeland, my only way to connect to my native food was dialing. Yes, dialing. I could spend 4-5 hours just to connect via a landline to my Mom’s voice, if she managed to be home. I know it sounds ancient but that was the case. At the rate of $60 dollars for 3 minutes filled with echoes due to satellite delays, getting a recipe, a small piece of home, was a treasure hunt but well worth the effort! It is interesting to look back from our current reality of free, non-stop communication and wonder at how those same telephone companies resisted the change that I, along with the rest of the internetworking and telecommunication world was pushing for in Voice Over IP telephony.
So now you know the key experiences which floated through my brain as I drove back from Michigan leading to the idea which is now Plates. Beyond being on trend of the sharing economy upswing, Plates is a platform purpose-built to achieve four main objectives:
Reduction of food waste. Today, we waste over $165 Billion dollars of food in the US each year. That number globally stands at $650 Billion dollars.
Reduction of hunger. Today, we have over 800 Million people that are considered hungry. And yes, we have that in the US too.
Improved health. By eating food that was created from scratch with locally sourced ingredient, you will be healthier. Food heals. If you are healthier and take better care of your body and what you feed it, you will be healthier and live a longer life. You will be less of a burden on the health care system, allowing health professionals to tackle bigger issues.
Closer Communities. Healthy neighborhoods need access to a plethora of resources to keep them safe and healthy. We know hunger and lack of food security is a source of constant concern for many families. Building a better social fabric will lead to healthier neighborhoods.
It is with these values in mind we began our journey in August 2017. So many people have given us help and encouragement it is impossible to mention them all. They know who they are! Thank you!
Now, I am pleased to share with you what we have built. The Plates platform consists of two unique but integrated experiences; one for the chef, the other for the diner.
Chef’s Plates will enable those who love creating and sharing nourishing food. Sadly, based on the latest Harvard study, this group of people is shrinking. 10 years ago, approximately 15% of Americans either loved or knew how to cook. Last year that number shrank to 10%! We need to encourage these folks to share their passion.
Diner’s Plates will give easy access to those folks eager to find great food prepared by those who love cooking it in a safe, interactive environment. It will provide them with the ability to seek and find food cooked with their health needs in mind, starting the basic requirement of it being mindful.
Connection is where the magic happens. Chefs will be rewarded with seeing who enjoys their food. A smile! Interacting with a satisfied diner will be added incentive currently missing from today’s professional chef’s commercial settings and this will stoke their entrepreneurial verve, free up their talent and make their passion available to people around them. Diners will feel comfortable becoming more adventurous, discovering new ways to access food and meaningful connections in their neighborhood or as they travel, knowing there is safety and quality assurance built into the platform.
Plates is a global platform for local artisan food lovers. We invite you now to come, join this movement. If you love to cook, Plates is for you. If you care what you consume and treat food as a medicine for your body, Plates is for you.
The Plates mobile apps are currently in limited release on the App Store and Google Play. Search Chef’s Plates if you are interested in becoming a chef or Diner’s Plates to view how to find food. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified as further releases are made in your area.
One last thought to leave you with: I don’t want to take credit for this, but I did hear somewhere that you can eat your food as your medicine today or eat your medicine as your food later! Food is not fuel, it nourishes you. Treat it with respect and it will respect you.