Waste No Food

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

Photo of Kiran Sridhar
10 21

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

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.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Disability community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

The Westly Foundation, which donated $20,000 to Waste No Food and which has been a strong supporter of young social entrepreneurs.

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 66.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 16.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 16.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 16.7%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pearl

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

Photo of Ariyan Miller

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Petit Snyder

Your idea is similar to mine. Great minds think alike!

Photo of Tesfaye Ayalew

Kiran, Great idea!! bro

Photo of Kim Solem

Amazing! Congratulations, Kiran, on such a successful project so far - you've made an incredible difference in the lives of so many! You are a changemaker! Your model sounds so simple, so effective, and so scalable. I wish you the very best in taking Waste No Food to the next level!

Photo of Maryam Hiradfar

Waste No Food is an amazing project! I just read another entry called "Riceometer," and it seems like you guys could have a very fruitful and interesting collaboration. I'd highly recommend you take a look at their entry and contact them.

Photo of Phillip Mathew

Waste No Food sounds amazing! I am the Co-Founder of Got Food?, a mobile application that allows the food-insecure population to locate the nearest food pantries, soup kitchens, and summer feeding sites. Hunger is a serious problem that plagues our nation. I completely agree with your goal and believe that this food wasted by companies and restaurants can be donated to the food-insecure population. I wish you the best of luck as your project develops.

Photo of Selma N

Your project sounds incredible! My project RISE (Refugee International Support Effort) is working towards distributing creative outlet items throughout refugee camps in order to instill hope and mental well being. However, I am also aware of the desperate need for health care and nutrition among refugee camps. You should definitely consider expanding. Once again, this is awesome!

Photo of Ezra Bram

Kiran Sridhar I'd like to being by simply encourage and applaud your bold efforts to address such a rampant and commonly overlooked problem within our own nation! This is an issue that many are unaware of because many are blinded by prosperity. This is exactly the type of innovation and action we want to supercharge at CATALYST COFFEE AND TAPHOUSE ! I see true potential in your idea and the tenacity you've displayed. Please let us know if you're ever in Denver and need any connections! We totally support this idea and want to see more lives flourish! You're making that a reality.
Also, Vivian Tran has already commented! I would have totally plugged her into this, but she beat me to it! Definitely check out her Cupboards for Change! - Free Street Pantries for Those in Need idea, because you could further one another's objectives! You guys rock.

Photo of Vivian Tran

Hello birthday twin! Your idea proposal is honestly so resourceful and compelling. It's amazing how just how many meals you have donated to the hungry through re-purposing edible food that is often thrown away. I'm looking forward to the expansion of Waste No Food  in the near future as it already proves itself to be an extremely effective method to tackle food waste!