During the early 1990s, I worked in restaurant management, including a stint at a regional bakery-café chain that sold drool-worthy fresh pastries, quiches and rich soups that lured diners to line up at the front door well before operating hours. At that time the chain consisted of a few dozen company-owned stores. Part of the manager’s role at each store was to unlock the back door so employees could roll hundreds of leftover pastries, desserts and loaves of bread and gallons of soup to a nearby dumpster. As managers, we were not given any direction or options about how this food could be utilized to feed the hungry and homeless in the giant metropolitan areas they served. There were whispers among managers that any arrangements made by individual restaurants to donate the food would expose the company to liability lawsuits or that donations might allow the unauthorized resale of products.
Thankfully, systems to stop leftover food from becoming dumpster filler at that eatery and foodservice operations around the country are in place to more effectively address the opportunity to convert would-be trash to sustenance for those in need. It is more than a little heartening to see problem solvers like Jasmine Crowe attack an issue like this head-on and make a difference in the lives of people in need of hope.
Crowe formerly worked as a freelance philanthropy consultant, but more recently has focused her attention on food insecurity. About 18 months ago, Crowe launched Goodr, a food-waste solutions company utilizing an app to identify surplus food that is available from companies and redirect it to nonprofit organizations and people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to eat or feed their families. Having launched the program in Atlanta, donating organizations include the Georgia World Congress Center, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Turner Broadcasting Systems. Goodr works with the United Way of Greater Atlanta to facilitate delivery of the food to the areas in the metro where it is needed most.
As of May of this year, Goodr claims to have rescued upwards of 1 million lbs. of food from the trash and created more than 850,000 meals for recipient groups that assist the city’s homeless as well as senior citizens living in low-income housing.
As I can attest from my restaurant days when loaves of bread that were sold for upwards of $3 just before closing time were relegated to trash minutes later, a food shortage is not the root of the problem in most cases.
“Hunger is not a scarcity issue,” Crowe said in a story published in Fast Company this past month. “There’s more than enough food. It’s actually a logistics issue.” Goodr addresses the issue by allowing food-flushed companies to use its app to notify a growing network of organizations that they have a food surplus. With Uber-like efficiency, drivers are matched with the donator’s location and directed to nearby partner agencies.
Goodr’s service is not free to participating companies, with monthly fees that are quantity based between $2,500 and $15,000, but Crowe estimates companies realize $14 in tax deductions and saved costs for every $1 in fees they spend. Goodr utilizes a blockchain-based system of traceability of the transactions and the app provides a dashboard to keep track of each participating company’s donations so they can estimate tax savings related to lowering its environmental impact and how much lower its trash disposal fees can be.
To date, Goodr’s revenues total about $30,000 per month, and Crowe is gaining financial momentum from business incubating organizations to fund its growth. With a goal of raising $1 million, Crowe plans to expand the program to other cities in need, such as Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando and Washington, DC.
In an era when food waste is too often perceived as the result of consumers’ eyes being too big for their stomachs, it is gratifying to realize how food companies can play a prominent role in a solution led by people whose hearts are bulging.