FreeBites fights food insecurity and waste by connecting businesses with surplus food to a network of nonprofits.

Photo of Maya Mysore
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Each year, 1 in every 9 Americans struggle with food insecurity. At the same time, more than 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted. While food resources such as food banks and food pantries exist, access to food is still an issue, as they are not utilized and distribute food effectively. Addressing this issue would mean less people go hungry. It would also reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of 63 million tons of food wasted annually.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our solution is to create an app that builds a network consolidating surplus and food resources. Our app will enable individuals to easily discover and connect with nonprofits in their community while also allowing individuals with excess food to quickly share that with people in need in their community. We will reach out to restaurants and grocery stores to source surplus for our recovery program. Once we get their buy-in, they will be onboarded on to our app to access our network of nonprofits whom they can easily connect with to redirect their surplus. As we do this, we also will build out a volunteer base that will serve as our logistics network for recovering food from businesses to donate to nonprofits. A community-based app will help us in this outreach for volunteers.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

By coding the app as our primary solution, we provide a tech-driven approach to solving a problem with clear environmental consequences. Incorporating teaching about the effects of food waste, such as methane production, will also help us onboard community members and restaurants/grocery stores onto the app, making the approach overall highly science-focused.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I was taking a class on social problems and stumbled across the major issues of food deserts and food insecurity. I realized that a major part of the issue was distribution, especially considering how much food was wasted on a regular basis. I began working with my colleagues on a scalable community model to encourage people to help others in their local vicinity. The platform and subsequent work emerged from questions like this and we hope to keep developing it to continue supporting local communities.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

In this short video, I talk about the role of technology in addressing the social and environmental issues that result from food waste and food insecurity.

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

Pairing up with someone who has more technical experience than me and who was able to handle the app development aspect of the project helped a lot to get the app done. Her entrepreneurship background is also ensuring we make strong progress on our business development side as well. She was able to test a pilot run of the app prior to Covid-19 and she ended up signing on over 1500 users. Now we are working to onboard volunteers to scale up our action.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our focus on creating the system for a community makes it individualized to the people in a particular area. Our emphasis on economic scalability, and community development as a main focus, sets us apart from other startups. More than anything else, we want less people in our community to go hungry; making the startup continue to function monetarily was more so for the sake of allowing us to eventually scale and expand this work so we can impact even more communities.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

In the past three months, we have focused on adapting our app prototype (initially piloted at UC Davis and intended for universities) to a community model which would allow us to expand the scope of the app’s impact beyond college students and university campuses. This development period is still ongoing. The original app is still in use in the Davis community, by groups such as the Freedge (community fridge network) and the Davis Night Market. We’ve also conducted user research by interviewing existing users to better inform the functional design of our new app version. Simultaneously, we’ve continued to outreach to nonprofits to learn about their needs and pain points which has helped us develop a relationship with Food Is Free Solano-- a nonprofit we’re partnering in the near future to help scale their food recovery operations within Solano County.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Once we establish an individual-nonprofit network within one community, such as Davis, we plan to onboard businesses such as restaurants, farmers, and grocers. Within the first year, we aim to scale into 3 communities in the greater Sacramento area, and connect with 15 different restaurants interested in donating their food waste on the platform. Currently, we’ve connected with the Food is Free Solano nonprofit and will be working with them to do the pilot run of the new, community version of FreeBites. This partnership will allow us to leverage their network of volunteers, vehicles, and connections to individual farmers and restaurants and gleaning groups to pilot the direct-to-consumer marketplace delivery program.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Throughout this project, we’ve had to get help from a lot of people. From developing the app to finding people who want to help with the business development and vision, we’ve done a lot of searching for people with an interest in helping. By constantly seeking new people and new ideas, and infusing our vision for community food-sharing programs, we have worked to impact all the people who are working with us to make this a reality. The fact that everyone volunteers to work with us has shown us

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We have begun partnering with other groups to start scaling up our platform and our goals. Namely, we are working with a nonprofit called Food is Free Solano to guide the development of our own logistics network. My co-founder also volunteering with The Farmlink Project, which does what we do but for a different part of the food supply chain-- redirecting surplus produce from farms to food banks. By seeking out partners in diverse fields, we hope to continue improving and expanding our work.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

When we seek to get others to buy-in to our project, our key focus is on the value of our mission. Food insecurity and food waste are both complex, systemic issues impacting our planet and people globally. We hope to inspire more social awareness and community action around addressing these problems together. By explaining our vision for community-scale food sharing ecosystems, as well as the ideas of zero waste and zero hunger, we can mobilize people’s passion for helping others to get buy-in.

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Project Plan & Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Probably - 50%

Maybe - 50%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 0%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 75%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 25%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4 - Yes, I think so - 0%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not. - 25%

1 - No - 25%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 50%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4 - Yes, I think so - 25%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so - 0%

3- Maybe - 25%

2- Probably not - 50%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 66.7%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 33.3%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 100%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 0%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 66.7%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 33.3%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sonali Mathur

Your solution is unique because you are using technology to solve for an existing problem. Consider collaborations with partners trying to solve for similar issues. Also you will need strong marketing to support and spread the word

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