Bringing people from drastically different walks of life to the same plate.
Transfernation connects communities that produce large amounts of excess, nutritious food to communities that need it.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
New York, NY
Location(s) of impact
United States: New York
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Food waste from catered events is a high-quality, yet untapped steam of food waste for three reasons: lack of communication between the sector that produces it and the sector that needs it, lack of information on where and what to donate, and the absence of a standard, quick food donation process. As a result, thousands of pounds of untouched, extra catered food goes to waste daily because there is no logistically sound process to ensure an easy transfer, especially when the food is perishable.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
Transfernation, our iOS app, creates an easy system of food redistribution for corporate cafeterias/events in large cities, that allows them to schedule food pickups in advance or request them on-demand. It connects existing infrastructure: corporations that regularly produce large amounts of extra food, transportation networks, and shelters that host daily/weekly feeding programs. It works like Uber, but for food instead of passengers. We have completed over 1,000 pickups and dropoffs to local soup kitchens using paid, independent contractors, many of them individuals who eat at shelters, and rideshare companies that allow us to work outside of the confines of a 9-5 work day, eliminating our reliance on volunteers. We have delivered over 120,000 meals in NYC, providing employment opportunities as part of our process. We are looking to expand into other cities where the population/business density and shelter networks can support this model—in short, nearly every urban market globally.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Since October 2016 we have redirected over 146,000 pounds of food from landfills to local feeding programs, drastically reducing our clients' carbon footprint. There are 3 local shelters whose feeding programs are now entirely dependent on our donations. Another, Grace United Church, was able to extend their feeding program from one to 5 days a week with the volume of donations; They receive over 460 pounds of food every week (translating to about 380 meals). We also recently partnered with the ‘employment readiness’ program at one of our shelter partners and provide part-time employment to 10 individuals in the form of paid pickup opportunities. This is an initiative that we plan to start with other shelter partners. Independent contractors are able to make between $30-$40 an hour. We are not only providing food, but creating employment for individuals who have previously experienced homelessness/major financial setbacks and are actively trying to re-enter the workforce.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Earned income: Our operations are revenue-generating. Corporate food donors pay a monthly/per pickup fee through the Transfernation app to schedule pickups. As our client base grows and our pickup load increases, we are able to secure more consistent revenue, while simultaneously impacting more people. (Estimated % of budget: 55-60%).
Grants: We have received and continue to receive renewable grants from the Cliff Bar Foundation and LinkedIn Giving fund. (Estimated % of budget: 30%).
Individual Donors: We routinely raise money through online crowdfunding activities. This is one of the ways in which we engage with the general public around new updates to our process and individuals who are not able to work with us in other capacities. (Estimated % of budget: 2-3%)
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
We are the first tech-based, on-demand food pickup service in NYC. Unlike other rescue orgs, our app allows donors to connect directly with our base of paid contractors in real time, eliminating the need for a middleman to coordinate logistics. The fee we charge is small change for big firms, but for our contractors, it’s significant. It also allows for a more sustainable model where we’re not relying solely on goodwill. Food donors are also saving on waste removal costs.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
There’s something about seeing edible food in a trash bag; it's like an insult to people who can’t afford to eat. Seeing excess as garbage is detrimental to our humanity and our environment, especially in cities where life is fast-paced and it takes time to care., I come from a Pakistani household with a strict clean plate policy but the first time I saw someone eating out of a trash can wasn’t in Pakistan, it was in New York. Not to say that Pakistanis don’t waste, but there exists a conscientiousness about waste that I didn’t find here in the city. So I thought, what if I could pick it up for you? What if I could take it to a shelter for you? Would that incentivize you not to throw it away? And it has. Hunger isn’t a food problem, it’s a logistics problem, and logistics can be solved for.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
a). We provide corporate food donors with technology that allows them to schedule pickups for the extra food from their cafeterias/events. Paid transporters (include cargo bikers, Uber drivers, etc.) deliver the extra food from our corporate partners to local feeding programs, that serve meals to food insecure populations.
b). Our operations take place all over New York City
c). Our transporters are picking up and delivering extra food seven days a week. Currently, our shelter partners receive up to 250 pounds of food on a daily basis.
d). We match food donors with the closest feeding program in their area, usually less than 0.4 miles away from them. One pickup and delivery can be completed in under 30 minutes. Currently, we complete between 8 and 15 deliveries every day.
e). The technology and our transporters: the app helps food donors schedule pickups. Pickups are completed by our paid transporter base. Our current Transporters base consists of a variety of demographics and occupations: cargo bikers, Uber drivers, students, people with full-time jobs, etc.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
We’ve worked with 13 local feeding programs this year, hosted by churches, shelters, missions, etc., that collectively feed over 4,800 people a day. They operate in lower income areas and, given their budget restrictions, they aren’t able to afford high-quality nutritious food. Keep in mind, however, that cities do not have a food problem- there is no dearth of resources- they have a distribution problem. After interviewing dozens of individuals who eat at the shelters about their regular diets, they responded that they ate wherever they could get a high calorie count for their dollar, which mostly meant fast, fried food. Children are especially susceptible to this.
Our iOS app allows us to track not only which areas of the city are most in need of healthy food donations, but how much they are utilizing and how much they need in order to be able to provide everyone who comes with a healthy meal. Two of our shelter partners are now entirely run off Transfernation’s food donations and have reported a spike in the number of individuals frequenting their feeding programs because of the higher quality food being provided. This is food that, just a few hours earlier, was being eaten by executives at large corporations in New York City. Our technology and transporters are bridging the distribution gap between the high quality food that the financially flexible sector eats on a daily basis and bringing it to the sector that cannot afford to eat the same way.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Our process creates value for the food donor, the shelter, and the transporters that take it from one to the other.
Corporations, because of the amount of food they produce on a daily basis, are uniquely capable of addressing the supply side of the hunger and undernutrition problem. Instead of paying hauling companies to take their edible trash to landfill, they pay Transfernation to take their edible extra to the closest feeding program. They also receive tax deductions for donated food.
The fee we charge corporate food donors is used to pay our transporters. Volunteering is a privilege that many people cannot afford if the opportunity cost is paid work. Many of our transporters are from financially insecure backgrounds; they are able to make between $30-$40 an hour completing our pickups. At the same time, shelters are guaranteed a steady supply of high-quality, nutritious food that is brought to them on the same day that it is prepared. There is value created at each step.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
Currently, we are funded through earned revenue and grants. Our earned revenue fully covers the cost of the service (labor and transportation) from all of our clients. Recurring food donors pay a monthly fee to schedule weekly pickups from their location, and one-time donors pay per pickup. Our revenue is directly proportional to the number of food donors using our service. The fee we charge includes a relevant proportion of organisational costs.
Our overhead cost is minimal and is covered by recurring grants from the LinkedIn Corp. and Cliff Bar Foundation among others. In the next 5 years, we anticipate our earned revenue to cover 80-85% of our overhead cost.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
I believe we can work towards a change in the way we view extra food as a society. The way we view it greatly affects our treatment of it, and because parts of our society have never experienced a dearth, it's difficult to imagine one. If we win this edition, I want to leverage that visibility and support of our model to advocate for the many laws that are being created in support of food donation and audit and also for financially-sustainable practices of food rescue in large cities. The immense amounts of extra food in cities, and reduction efforts, are also an incredible economic opportunity for populations that are affected by its excess and its dearth.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
We have been able to accomplish a significant amount with a small core team. An investment from Nestle would allow us to grow our team in order to accommodate the different markets that are interested in using our service. We will use the investment towards expanding our service to other cities in the United States and abroad. The visibility that it would provide would allow us to market our service in areas that we currently do not work in and scope out where our service is needed the most.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
Our first order of business is expanding our team so that we can expand our service. We recently partnered with FLIK, one of the largest hospitality groups in North America. We currently work with most of their NYC locations and have gotten significant interest from FLIK units in other cities across the United States to expand our program. We have found it most effective to scale through partnerships; this way, when in a new location, we do not have to build from the ground up, rather, work with what already exists, and bring a disruptive idea with seamless implementation. We plan to be in two more cities in the U.S. by the end of 2018.
We are also actively seeking additional partnerships in the transportation sector. Our on-demand food pickup system is built off existing transportation networks (cargo bikes, rideshare companies, etc.). We have found that offering drivers a competitive rate for pickups allows us to work outside of a 9-5 work day and facilitates our on demand service.
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
The team currently consists of: a Chief Executive Officer, myself, overseeing operations and partner/client acquisition and expansion. A part time Chief Technology Officer, Alim, who built our iOS app, and now manages user experience and upkeep. A part time Chief Creative Officer, Tin, responsible for our online presence, marketing and strategy. A part time Operations Coordinator, Diego, who oversees our daily pickup schedule. A part time Client Coordinator, Victoire, who manages our backend database and tracks our pickup statistics (i.e. pounds rescued, costs, food usage, etc.).
We also have a four person Executive Board that focuses on fundraising and a nine person Advisory Board consisting of individuals from the technology, venture capital, food, hospitality, and consulting sectors.
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
Jefferson Awards Foundation LEAD360 National Winner
Toyota Vehicle of Change competition runner-up
SheKnows Media Campus Pitch National Winner
Dalai Lama Fellowship
Resolution Project Fellowship
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
We are the first food rescue organization that has successfully built off existing infrastructure to create the first on-demand food pickup system, without having to build anything outside of our technology. Because logistics are a primary concern for many food rescue organizations, regardless of location, we have become a primary contact for many smaller organizations looking to scale in the space. I am a believer in using and building on what already exists and when advising organizations that are just starting to grow, I encourage using a model similar to what we used.
We have also spoken on multiple panels advocating for smarter and more compassionate cities when it comes to solving problems that are considered charitable.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018