Waste No Food

Diverting excess food to hungry people; serving 5 million people in need

Photo of Kiran Sridhar
10 21

Written by

Date Started


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

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

It was the support of my teachers, mentors, and family that encouraged me to pursue this project despite my age. They told me that my age was not a disadvantage but an advantage: my generation knew how to design and use technology better and I could look at a deeply entrenched problem in a fresh light. But they also urged me to show humility and really understand the problem and what nonprofit leaders had previously done to address it. As a result, I spent a year shadowing restaurants and convention centers and charities, understanding how their daily operations worked and what the friction points were that prevented them from donating food. Then, in collaboration with a social good team from PayPal, Waste No Food's COO and I designed a platform that would address the logistical challenges associated with food donation.

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

One-in-six people in America are food insecure; this is a societal problem of untapped potential. It is also completely preventable. After all, 40% of all food is wasted. If food waste could be reduced by just 3/10s, every hungry person could be fed. The problem is one of logistics: it is hard for venues which hold large events (and constitute a large fraction of food waste) to link up with resource-deprived charities. Waste No Food is that link.

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

We utilize technology to provide an efficient platform that can be used nationwide. Waste No Food is a program that has been directly tailored to meet the needs of both food donors and charities. Our food donors include restaurants, corporate and educational cafeterias, caterers, food trucks, grocery stores, farms and sporting venues. We have discovered, through creation of a pilot program, that the main challenges associated with food donation are logistical. Therefore, we have created web and mobile marketplaces that efficiently links food donors and pre-vetted charities. Any time a food donor has excess food, all that they need to do is type a message on our platform. As opposed to having to individually call many charities in the area whenever a food donor has excess food, Waste No Food presents a way to reach out to all charities in the vicinity in under a minute. Charities within 20 miles of the donation site will then get email and push notification alerts. If they can use the excess food, they can then claim the food and are responsible for picking the food up. This app matches food donors and charities in real-time and all donations are tracked.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

I volunteer at the Julian Street Shelter in downtown San Jose. There, I am touched by young people who wait in line for a free meal. They look just like me and have similar aspirations. Yet, they tell me hunger is a barrier to achieving their dreams; when they are food insecure, they cannot focus on bettering themselves. Today, 15.9 million children are hungry nationally—a huge societal challenge. To address the area’s exigent hunger crisis, in the fall of 2015, the City of San Jose called upon the nonprofit I run, Waste No Food, to implement our program to alleviate hunger. I managed the project, collaborating with charities, government officials, and the food industry to donate excess food to the hungry. Working with so many stakeholders with myriad interests was frustrating. Meetings were interminable and eight months went by before the first donation was made. But I found motivatio

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

Many food recovery organizations have made a difference on a local level. But because we leverage technology--a user-friendly app developed in partnership with PayPal--we are scalable to communities across the nation and can address the massive problem of food waste. We augment the capacity of existing social service organizations, enabling them to serve more. Moreover, our initial partnership with the City of San Jose and the County health department helped us develop a set of industry-standard food safety guidelines and procedures, meaning that we are ready to scale.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have donated 5 million meals to the hungry. Our early collaboration was with the City of San Jose, through Feeding Silicon Valley, a partnership between government officials, charities, food and beverage managers, and business leaders. Through this effort, we were able to recruit Levi's Stadium, the San Jose Convention Center, SAP Center, and eBay. Our efforts helped augment the capacity of charities to serve a growing hungry and homeless population at a time when the Jungle, a homeless encampment of 300 people was torn down. Our efforts in San Jose were emulated by a coalition of concessionaires and airport managers at the San Francisco Airport, by the University of Illinois (whose dining halls donate through the program), and in Tampa Bay, where the Network to End Hunger, a coalition of governments, businesses and charities have recruited major stadiums, hotels, and Univ. of Cent Fl

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

The food service community is a small one and the initial feedback from our users has been very positive. We have received interest in expanding from other convention centers, airports, and sports stadiums (many of which are catered by the same caterer of Levi's Stadium). Our program can expand to serve these donors and the resource-starved charities in their communities. Additionally, many governments have asked us to emulate the programs we have established in San Jose and Central Florida; we provide a free service that confronts one of society's seemingly intractable problems. And unlike other food recovery solutions, we don't rely on a large volunteer footprint or many resources, making us easily scalable.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

In order to get to the next level, we need to build a more sustainable organizational structure. We are becoming too big to be sustained as an all-volunteer organization; this means that we have to forgo some of the promising expansion opportunities mentioned above. We need to raise money to hire full-time staff. The money, connections, and educational opportunities from the accelerator will give us the ability to raise money to hire staff and the training in how to manage staff. The best part is that once we hire staff and grow to scale, we can be self-sustaining. We are saving San Francisco Airport concessions $800,000 in tax bills from food they would otherwise throw away. We calculate that by charging a 2% fee we can meet our needs.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k
  • Donations over $10k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We have found that many of our expansion efforts have been aided by young people. We have community service partnerships with Lick-Wilmerding High School (my high school where the entire freshman class goes around San Francisco canvasing restaurants), Stanford University (which has provided the funding for us to hire two summer interns to work on building our presence on campus), and Foothill College (where students participate in community service projects across Silicon Valley; Foothill-De Anza College District's chancellor is on Waste No Food's board). These volunteer initiatives are very rewarding for the 1,500 student volunteers we have mobilized. When these volunteers recruit ... We have a volunteer kit that we can disseminate widely with T-Mobile's and Ashoka's help.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pearl

This is an awesome project, I can't wait to see how it grows!

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