Unfortunately, we are living in a time where homelessness and hunger increase by the minute. And while there are many aspects to this matter, poverty is one of the main issues linked to food insecurity in the United States.
In a country where food waste is prevalent, it is inconceivable that we have thousands of people who don’t know where their next meal will come from or if they will even have a meal at all, starving for days because we would rather toss away the leftovers, provoking a massive waste of food every year. If we think a little deeper, poverty wouldn’t interfere with hunger if we put the leftover food from restaurants, schools, prisons, and even our own homes to good use. Did you ever think about that? Well, thankfully, someone did!
Komal Ahmad, a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, is the CEO and founder of COPIA, an app that collects surplus food from donors – any company, group or individual- and allocates it to organizations that help people in need. Donors can use the app to request a pickup of any excess food you may want to donate and a “food hero” – a driver hired by Copia- will rescue the excess consumable food from the trash and deliver it to a nearby shelter in need.
The food recovery app was first thought of in 2011 after Ahmad invited a homeless man to lunch who had approached her to ask her for change to buy some food. The man was a veteran who had recently come back from Iraq and was going down a bumpy financial path.
“We sat and had lunch and I asked him his story and he said, ‘I just came back from my second deployment in Iraq, I was evicted from my house last week, I’ve been waiting for several weeks to have my benefits kick in, but until then, I don’t have any money and I don’t have any food,’ “Ahmad told People magazine.
After that conversation, where she also learned he hadn’t eaten for three days, her eyes were opened to what she calls “the world’s dumbest problem: hunger.” Who would’ve thought that we would be dealing with hunger here in the U.S. – one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Ahmad thinks it is just a distribution problem, so it didn’t take more than a couple of hours for her to start an on-campus food recovery program and reach out to her school’s dining hall to donate leftover meals to local organizations serving the homeless.
Five years later, Ahmad keeps working restlessly to eradicate hunger and serves as a founder and CEO of Feeding Forward – a web-based platform that instantaneously connects businesses that have leftover food with organizations that feed the hungry. Only verified 501©3 profit organizations – public charities, private foundations or private operating foundations- can receive donations from Copia.
To date, COPIA has fed more than 600,000 people by recovering over 800,000 pounds of food and currently operates in Mountain View, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, San Jose, Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland. But Ahmad’s mission and vision for her app is to expand nationally and worldwide.
“Just like you hail an Uber, you should be able to donate your food in minutes.” Ahmad said to People. “ My dream was never for this to be just nascent here. I will not rest until it is at least on six seven continents.”
To get involved and find out more, visit FeedingForward.com.
By Cynthia Paola Bautista