Nearly 600,000 homeless people (a population about the same as Milwaukee or Albuquerque) have received meals through an app designed to route soon-to-be food waste to homeless shelters.
If you’re like most people, chances are you walk or drive right past homeless people. They blend in with the backdrop of bustling cities these days. Maybe you drop some change their way, but would you take one out to lunch? That’s what University of California, Berkeley student Komal Ahmad did several years ago. And it changed her life.
Ahmad says she invited a homeless man to lunch after he asked her for money. It turns out the man was a veteran struggling after returning from Iraq. The experience “blew my mind,” Ms. Ahmad told The Independent, and it sent her on a mission: to route excess food from the university to local homeless shelters.
While many supermarkets often struggle with maintaining steady relationships with homeless shelters, Ahmad’s initiative with colleges and universities blew up—expanding to 140 campuses in just three years.
Ahmad is now the CEO of the not-for-profit service, which she calls Feeding Forward. She calls food waste “literally the world’s dumbest problem,” and she’s not off the mark. Food waste is a monstrous problem across the globe, with an estimated one-third of all edible food going uneaten—from inefficiencies in farming and transport to improper rotation at store level, not to mention wasteful habits on the homefront (such as forgetting about that leftover pizza in the back of the fridge).
“Hunger is bad – it’s terrible everywhere – but in America, in the most prosperous, industrialised country in the world, this just shouldn’t exist,” says Ahmad, and she is convinced that something can be done about it. “Imagine a football stadium filled to its brim. That’s how much food goes wasted every single day in America.”
With Feeding Forward, Ahmad’s app lets companies or universities donate their excess food with literally the click of a button. All the user has to do is select their location and Feeding Forward drivers collect and deliver the food to various shelters and food banks.
While it won’t solve the problem of homelessness in the U.S., it can make for more food access for individuals and families struggling to get a meal. And as sustainability is on the minds of many young people today, it’s certainly a selling point for the universities.
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Image via Feeding Forward