One of the most needless problems that America faces today is the staggering amount of good and edible food that is wasted when there are so many hungry, homeless and food-insecure people out there.
Some people, like entrepreneur Rob Greenfield, raid dumpsters behind grocery stores where they find perfectly edible food to give to anyone who wants it for free. Entrepreneur Komal Ahmad aims to solve the hunger problem on a much wider scale with her startup.
“Imagine a football stadium filled to its brim. That’s how much food goes wasted every single day in America,” Ahmad told CNET. In 2013, she founded Feeding Forward, a Bay Area-based non-profit organization that seeks to end America’s hunger problems by using a web-based service designed to eliminate the food distribution problem.
Feeding Forward established a web-based network of food banks and homeless shelters to streamline the process of distributing food quickly before it goes bad. If a shelter needs food, for example, they fill out a form to request that food be delivered as soon as possible; if there is a surplus of food anywhere, they can also fill out a form to have that food redistributed elsewhere.
At any given time, Feeding Forward knows who needs food and where to take it, and their small army of 88 employees goes to work.
So far, Feeding Forward has been able to recover more than 684,000 pounds of food to help feed roughly 570,000 people while also diverting 3.42 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.
Earlier in June, entrepreneurs of the food industry and chefs gathered in Santa Clara, California for Bite Silicon Valley, a three-day food-tech conference. As you’d expect from a food conference, there were a lot of food leftovers. Rather than letting that food go to waste, Ahmad partnered with the conference organizers to distribute the event’s leftovers to the hungry and homeless.
Armed with food containers and their network of shelters and food banks, Feeding Forward’s 88 employees collected six trolleys full of food — 5,135 pounds in total.
Feeding Forward’s team distributed the surplus food to eight different food banks and homeless shelters in the Bay Area, feeding over 4,279 people. The move also diverted more than 25,675 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from landfills the food would have eventually ended up in.
“These are huge cities that have absurd amounts of food thrown away every day. We are trying to make the Bay Area a case study to say ‘Hey, if it works here, it can work anywhere.’ “
Caryl Chinn, the founder of Bite Silicon Valley, said:
“The key for events and chefs is to make it as turnkey as possible… The [chefs] were really relieved and happy to see the food wouldn’t go to waste.”
Feeding Forward is by no means the first nonprofit organization to have attempted to end the hunger crisis in America, nor will they be the last. However, they were the first to be able effectively implement a system that solved one of the most critical problems when trying to feed the homeless — distribution.
As Feeding Forward continues to help the disadvantaged population of the San Francisco Bay Area, they are getting more recognition and more people volunteering to help. Right now the organization plans to expand outside the city and into Seattle and Boston, but they eventually want their influence to spread globally.