Food shortage is not just a third world problem. One in six Americans do not know where their next meal will come from. This, while each year, 365 million pounds of edible food is thrown away, making food scarcity the “dumbest” problem in the world. We got in touch with Feeding Forward, a non-profit service that matches businesses that have surplus food with nearby homeless shelters by means of an app. It was founded by a young entrepreneur Komal Ahmad. We couldn’t manage to have a conversation though we had an exchange over email.
What inspired you to start Feeding Forward?
Food is a fundamental human right. Extreme food waste in the presence of extreme hunger is one of the most disturbing, yet solvable, paradoxes of our time. Yet businesses throw away millions of pounds of food while others starve, and these groups often live across the street from each other. This is ethically and economically inefficient. Yet, we have shown that there is a huge financial opportunity within all of this inefficiency and found a way to tap into it.
The problem became apparent when I was training to become a Naval Officer and MD, as I began to realize that much of the homeless population I encountered were veterans. This hit home for me in a very real way and inspired me to create a tangible solution that can change the reality that 50 million Americans who go hungry face every day. I’ve built a scalable platform and company that enables businesses to seamlessly request a pickup of their excess food (instead of throwing it away or composting it). The food is picked up and delivered to feed communities in need in real time.
I founded this company as a way to easily and effectively feed the hungry, save money by lowering disposal and overproduction costs, and reduce methane by keeping food out of landfills. Feeding Forward allows people to do good quickly and conveniently. People throw away food all the time because it’s the quickest thing to do and because they lack the means and incentive to do anything else. My company provides the means (technology) and the incentive (tax deductions, CSR, PR etc.). We’re essentially a market-maker.
How does it work?
Businesses request a food pickup through our website or mobile app by answering three simple questions:
- What type of food is it?
- How many pounds of food?
- When does it need to be picked up?
Our platform detects the user’s location and immediately matches their excess food to nearby organizations in need. An on-demand driver picks up and delivers the food. The organization will then send a “thank-you” message, along with a picture and/or testimonials of the people that were fed, allowing the user to see the actual impact made in people’s lives by spending less than 2 minutes ‘Feeding Forward.’
How big is the problem?
Feeding Forward aims to address issues of food insecurity and waste. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 365 million pounds of food is wasted every day. That is 40% of the food produced in the US. The paradox is that while we have an absurd amount of waste, 1 in 6 Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Additionally, food waste feeds into the problem of environmentally and financially costly landfills that release methane 20 to 25 times stronger carbon dioxide than greenhouse gas.
How people can get involved with Feeding Forward?
- Visit our website. Our organization is entirely volunteer-led and driven, thus having Food Heroes (volunteer drivers) is essential. They are the backbone of Feeding Forward, so signing up to transport food between businesses and recipients in the Bay Area is a great way to get involved, even if it’s only for an hour a week.
- If you are an individual, or part of an organization or corporation that has excess food, even if it’s only occasionally, you can sign up to use our services by visiting our website If your organization is in need of food, you can sign up as a recipient agency on our website, and answer a few simple questions about yourself and your organization, so we can link you to the most appropriate donations when they are posted.
- Regardless of where you live, you can support us financially by visiting our website and entering the amount of money you would like to contribute. Your generous contribution directly enhances Feeding Forward’s ability to reduce food waste and feed more of the Bay Area’s in-need recipients faster than ever. A contribution of any amount will make you a member of Friends of Feeding Forward. Members will receive newsletters and exclusive invitations to special events, and other member benefits and gifts.
- You can also join our mailing list in order to stay up-to-date with the latest Feeding Forward news, and be notified when we come to your city.
What area does the app currently cover ? Do you have projects to extend it to other cities/countries?
Currently, the app covers the San Francisco Bay Area, with a strong presence in major cities like San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Berkeley. We’ve received over 5300 inquiries about extending our reach, and we project a rapid expansion across the country and worldwide.
The impact that you’ve made on the community?
By enlisting 650 businesses and 200 nonprofits/recipient organizations Feeding Forward has recovered and redistributed over 722K pounds of food that has fed over 602K people. We have a team of 8.
Someone on death row at San Quentin contacted me telling me he read about my work and though he was an unlikely partner so much food was wasted in the prison system and he wanted to collaborate to do something about it.
What’s the core insight or innovation that differentiates our organization from others? How is our solution significantly better than what currently exists?
Despite national efforts by governmental and charity organizations, issues of hunger and food waste are intensifying and taking a huge toll on the environment, as well as on the health and safety of our communities. It’s clear that in order to eradicate these issues, we need to develop sustainable, scalable solutions that utilize technology to streamline impact. While existing organizations share the same mission as Feeding Forward, they fail to realize that hunger in the United States occurs not due to a lack of food, but due to an inequitable distribution of it. The traditional telephone-based food donation coordination is cumbersome and inefficient. Feeding Forward aggregates the supply curve with a revolutionary new technology: smartphones. Because our project is more automated–involving more integration between software and drivers–Feeding Forward is systematic, formal, and replicable.
What drives you?
Hunger is bad – it’s terrible everywhere – but in America, in the most prosperous, industrialised, philanthropic country in the world, this problem shouldn’t exist. We are out to solve quite frankly, the world’s dumbest problem.
Either you’ve gone hungry or you’ve seen people go hungry. Either you’ve wasted food or you’ve seen food go wasted. In each case, Feeding Forward is a tangible solution to a massive global problem. We want people to join us in ending hunger in our lifetimes.
This sure is a smart way to solve the world’s dumbest problem and though there’s a long way to go, we have some direction!
[Tweet “@FeedingForward – Keep spreading the goodness! #OKIntrnt”]
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