As Southerners we like to eat; it’s a cultural prerequisite. But that pile of fried chicken on our stack of waffles (with perfect parts syrup and hot sauce) leaves us with more than enough leftovers. Globally we spend $218 billion dollars on food that goes to waste, and in Georgia 800,000 tons of the waste is sent to landfills each year. On the flip side, 755,000 people in metro Atlanta and north Georgia live in food-insecure households.
Don’t throw down your fork in frustration just yet, because Jasmine Crowe, the founder and CEO of Goodr, has created an innovative solution for both food waste and hunger. A food rescue app that operates in real-time, Goodr uses the power of shared economy to help feed some of Atlanta’s hungriest communities.
We got the scoop from Crowe on how she built one app to power a mobilized food rescue movement, why food waste can help solve hunger, and where Goodr is rolling out next.
How did you come up with the concept for Goodr?
I have been working in the food security space for many years. I put together my own cause campaigns, one of which is Sunday Soul, a five course meal in a pop-up restaurant for members of our community experiencing homelessness. We bring out linens, tables and chairs, fresh flowers, and really give them the full restaurant experience right on the streets, in parks and even under bridges. One of the videos from a Sunday Soul event went viral with over a million views on Facebook. People started asking what restaurants donated the food but truth be told I had bought and cooked all of it on my own. It got me thinking about how much surplus food many of these restaurants have.
After doing some travelling in Haiti, I came back to Atlanta feeling inspired to do more. I remember getting an email from Joey Womack at Goodie Nation about their ideation session focused on gentrification. I told him I had an idea for an app that rescues surplus food and gives it to people who are hungry. I ended up applying and they selected me as one of the ten organizations to go through the program. I already had the heart and feeding people in the community, I just needed help with the technology.
How does the app work and what other Goodr programming is in the works?
Goodr is a real-time food rescue app which works similarly to a Lyft or Uber using shared economy. It allows anybody to harness the power of fighting hunger and food waste. Goodr allows donors that have surplus food to order a driver to pick up that food. We pick it up and redirect it to soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, and eventually our Food Hub. The Goodr Food Hub will be like a food pantry — we want to rescue food 24/7 because hunger never sleeps. We also never know when a restaurant or grocery store will be faced with all this surplus food they need to get rid of.
We are also thinking about how we can reach some of the poorest communities in Atlanta. Getting food to shelters and kitchens is not hard. We are finding that there are different churches and centers that may have a food pantry in their community. So, we are launching Goodr Good which will train people to have programs in their communities. We are going to have an abundance of food, so we want to make sure we have an abundance of people we can get that food to.
We also just partnered with Inpax which is a freight and logistics company. They have trucks and vans we can use to rescue food in bulk including from farms and grocery stores. We are also trying to get a school bus to create a program called Farm to Community. Turner Broadcasting donated us a ton of restaurant and catering equipment so if we get bushels of kale, for example, we can go into communities where this issue is really prevalent and help them learn how to make different foods and send them home with fresh vegetables and fruits.
We have a ton of ideas for how the reshape the food ecosystem in Atlanta. This is home, we want to truly leave our footprint on this city before we expand into others.
Let’s talk about these other cities you hope to reach. You have a goal of hitting one new city a month after a successful launch year in Atlanta. What’s your approach?
After this year in Atlanta we can go to these other cities and show how we’ve helped bring the Goodr program to the community to help get buy-in. In other cities we want them to invest in our technology.
A lot of cities spend millions of dollars a year on waste. Our model and approach to the market is pulling a percentage of that wasted money. We want to go into other cities and say, “You are spending $30 million dollars on waste every year, we believe 15% of that is edible food we can recycle back into the community. Let us help you and make sure people aren’t going hungry.”
Are there competitors in the food rescue space?
There isn’t anybody doing what we want to do in the Southeast. There’s an organization out of San Francisco that has a lot of similarities to us but they stop rescuing food at 6:00 PM during the week and 8:00 PM on the weekends.
We realized right away that most restaurants don’t close on the weekend’s until 11:00 or 12:00 PM, so we need a late night location. We are sourcing a technology that will allow our drivers to access our food hub with their phones. People will be able to use a keyless entry to drop off the food they’ve picked up. Our food hub also doubles as a Soup Kitchen which will be open 7 days a week, so we’ll be able to sort that food, repackage it, and get it back into the community.
Can you tell us about some of Goodr’s milestones to date?
We just hit a milestone of over 5,000 pounds rescued, but we haven’t even touched the surface yet. All of that food had been rescued without our app, without the use of our drivers, just by using email and phone pick-ups.
Our biggest client right now is Turner Broadcasting Systems which is huge for us. Turner alone has helped feed 2,000 people. We never pick up less than 20 pans of food when we go there. Most of it is surplus where people think they will have a certain amount of people at a meeting or event but less show up. They’re excited because they’re able to help feed so many people.
What are pain points you’ve hit with food rescue and how are you jumping those hurdles?
Every restaurant I walk into I ask, “What do you do with all your extra food?” Several say they throw it away because they think it’s illegal to give it away, but in 1996, Bill Clinton enacted the Good Samaritan Act — since then, no one has been sued for willfully giving away food in good faith. Plus, in 2015 the IRS passed new legislation that offers increased benefits for food donors, but they didn’t educate the masses. So we are working against the ignorance of the law. I’ve been telling my team, our job is going to be a lot of education. There are so many benefits for donors to donate food but I don’t think they know about it.
With Goodr, all food donors will be contractually and legally protected. We are insured. All the people we give the food to sign a contract with us saying it’s a hold harmless agreement. That means the partners who take the food won’t resell it, will serve it by a certain time so it’s not expired, at the correct temperature, and none of the donors can be held liable. For every dollar a restaurant spends on reducing or recycling their food waste, they save $14.
Everything also comes in Goodr packaging with our logo, a description of what the food is, and the date it expires so folks won’t know which actual restaurant it came from.
How can the Atlanta community support Goodr?
We are rolling out a Goodr Ambassador Program which should launch at the end of April. As an Ambassador, you can take a media kit to a restaurant every time you eat out and show them how Goodr works. We are also looking for drivers or volunteer drivers.
Our Kickstarter is officially up and running now until June 4th. We hope to raise $50k which will help us build out the rest of the app, finish our web portal system for online donations, and supply marketing materials around what we do as well as education on food donation laws. People just can’t be afraid. If I can get us to a no waste society where everybody is eating, that’s my goal.
Kristyn Back is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Gather Good, a publication sharing stories on people, causes, resources, and events shaking up Atlanta’s social sector. You can read their stories on social impact here, join their community of newsletter lovers, and send a like their way by following Gather Good on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.