How Cooking Technology Can Save Lives Around the World

The World Health Organization reports that this year alone, 4.3 million people will die prematurely due to inhaling the toxic pollution from unsafe open hearth stoves—10,000 people every day.

Clean Cooking Photo

A woman prepares a meal over a three-stone fire in India, where more than half the population still cooks with solid fuels including wood, charcoal and animal dung. Photo courtesy of Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Editor’s note: Tonight we kick off Food Loves Tech—a three day expo showcasing how tech’s rapidly transforming our global food system. It’s an immersive event that allows guests to taste our very near food future and we hope you’ll join us. In just a couple of hours, Chef José Andrés and social media sensation Gary Vaynerchuk will open the weekend with a discussion about this booming space. If you can’t join us in person, be sure to follow the #foodlovestech hashtag and watch along on Snapchat. We hope you’ll join the discussion.

This weekend, as some of New York’s leading innovators, food lovers and chefs converge in Manhattan to explore the nexus of food and technology at the inaugural Food Loves Tech event, millions of people in developing countries will be cooking their families’ food just as our ancestors did thousands of years ago: with three rocks on the ground, over an open fire, burning dung, coal and wood for fuel.

Cooking this way is a silent killer. The World Health Organization reports that this year alone, 4.3 million people will die prematurely due to inhaling the toxic pollution from unsafe open hearth stoves—10,000 people every day. A disproportionate number of those affected are women and girls who often spend hours gathering fuel and breathing in damaging amounts of carcinogenic smoke as they cook.

Beyond the enormous burden this method of food preparation has on human lives, unsustainably harvested firewood contributes to vast deforestation, mudslides and the destruction of fishing industries. Not to mention, the carcinogenic smoke from combusted solid fuels account for roughly 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and up to 25 percent of the world’s black carbon emissions.

Fortunately, a “clean cooking” movement is gaining ground. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, alongside its 1,500 diverse partners and team of international chefs from its Chef Corps, are working to raise awareness and develop solutions for this little-known yet significant global health issue. Thanks to innovative technological advances in stove and fuel development, formation of standards and testing and greater investment in market-based approaches, the Alliance has helped nearly 50 million households gain access to cleaner, more efficient cookstoves and fuels in the past five years alone.

Yet, while momentum is building, far too many people are being impacted by diseases caused by smoke from rudimentary cookstoves. More must be done to spur innovation, increase investment, build awareness and change dangerous behaviors that have been part of too many cultures for millennia.

This weekend we are bringing our message to the Food Loves Tech event, joining Alliance Chef Corps members and stove manufacturers including Brooklyn-based BioLite and the solar-powered GoSun to shed light on this under-reported issue.

As Food Loves Tech highlights the rising public interest in the foods we eat and how we prepare them, it is a fitting venue for us to spread the word about clean cooking and to help harness some of New York’s disruptive thinkers and transformative energy to help solve this issue. Enhanced technology, coupled with creativity and passion for humanity are critical and necessary ingredients for success.

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José Andrés is the culinary ambassador for Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. Radha Muthiah is the CEO of Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.