JEE Foods

Student-Powered Food Rescue and Hunger Relief.

Photo of Alayna Meade
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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: Facebook: @JEEFoods2018 Twitter: @JeeFoods Instagram: jee.foods Youtube: JEE Foods Linked-In: JEE Foods

Date You Started Your Project Started

January 05, 2018

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

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

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

One in nine Americans struggles with hunger. Yet, almost 40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted. This food is simply thrown away because it’s either not aesthetically pleasing or it’s just past the expiration date among other factors. This wasted food costs the United States $165 billion each year. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand. In our city, approximately 22% of the population lives in poverty.

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

JEE Foods rescues food that would have otherwise been wasted and transforms it into food that’s donated back into the community. Not only does this help to solve the issue of hunger, but also the growing problem of food waste. The usability of rescued food is extended through freezing, dehydration or repurposing. The finished product is then distributed to individuals directly through our organization or other local outreach organizations. When processing food, we aim to achieve as little waste as possible; unusable food and scraps are composted at our local urban garden. JEE Foods sees the connection between hunger and poverty. Working to end the poverty cycle, we provide unemployed community members the opportunity to come work at JEE Foods. Individuals receive on the job training as well as certifications in the food industry, which increases their chances of employment.

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

In our Information Technology class, our instructor was approached by Samsung and IVECA virtual schooling to participate in the Samsung Global STEAM challenge. The challenge included creating solutions to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2, No Poverty and Zero Hunger. After research and collaboration with our mentors and students in South Korea, We identified three factors contributing to poverty worldwide: jobs, education, economy, hence the JEE. Stemming from these factors JEE Foods was established In Hamilton, Ohio, the USDA has recognized the area as a food desert, meaning it’s difficult to access affordable, nutritious food, while almost 22% of the Hamilton population is in poverty. Because our hometown is overcome by these issues, achieving United Nations SDGs 1 and 2 just seemed natural as the basis for JEE Foods.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

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

In-need community members can begin the process of receiving assistance through our website or by phone. Once received, community members are then prompted to fill out an assistance request. Next, someone from our organization will walk them through the steps to ensure they receive the help they need. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. We use an online platform to manage our food rescues and volunteer opportunities, community members are able to claim rescues and transport the food from the donor to our organization. In addition, we utilize students and community members in the food transformation process. Those who don’t have a job can also find the resources they need through JEE Foods. By helping to transform rescued food, volunteers receive on the job training and food safety certifications. Volunteers are also compensated for their hours worked into food.

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

While most food pantries collect food that would have been used, JEE Foods rescues it before it lands in our landfills. Most food pantries collect non-perishable goods, through our approach, we are able to provide fresh produce and more nutritious options (Such as pre-cooked rice). JEE Foods works to address one of the root issues of hunger -Jobs. We offer on the job training and food safety certification to community members who request food donations, something hardly seen in our local organizations. With experience and certification, they are able to find jobs and become self-sustainable.

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

JEE Foods has rescued over 8,000 pounds of food and impacted nearly 4,100 people in our community. Since starting JEE Foods, our food handled month over month has increased by almost 360%. Since we began a coffee bar with breakfast options in our school, we have seen an increase in the number of students eating breakfast daily by over 40%. JEE Foods realizes that education about food waste is crucial. We have visited and talked with over 400 students about food waste. We’ve seen that, even from a young age, students are excited and eager to make a difference in our community to help end hunger and food waste. Hearing stories from our donation recipients shows us how much of an impact we can have. One recipient writes,” JEE foods came to me in both a time of food insecurity and illness, they gave me relief in this trying time and I'm grateful that they were there for me and my family."

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

Our goals for JEE Foods includes increasing our food handled, and operational efficiency, reducing the turnover time of rescued food. We are developing a mobile grocery store that would be stocked with rescued and transformed food. This would enable us to deliver food to surrounding neighborhoods that are considered food deserts, providing people access to the food they desperately need. JEE Foods is also looking into making our school more sustainable within the next year. We see the waste that our school is producing and want to make a change. Small changes, such as switching to compostable plates, using reusable straws, and setting up compost bins in our school can have a major effect on our environment in the long run.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Management

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

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

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email

Evaluation results

33 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 84.8%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 6.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 9.1%

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%! - 84.8%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.1%

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

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

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 81.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 3.1%

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 - 3.2%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.2%

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

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 84.8%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.1%

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

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

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Carson McBain

Your story and impact is deeply inspiring! It's easy to see through the video how passionate everyone is about JEE Foods' mission and community connection. I would love to learn more about how people without jobs in the community have benefitted from the training & certifications they received through JEE Foods, if it's possible to track that kind of impact. Maybe you could periodically survey people who had been involved? As members of JEE Foods graduate from school, how do you ensure that the program keeps running; do leadership positions get passed down to underclassmen? Best of luck to you!

Photo of Alayna Meade

Thank you, Carson. When someone wants to volunteer with JEE Foods, there are many options available, such as becoming a Food Rescuer, meaning that the person will help collect food donations from local restaurants and farms. With this option, volunteers are able to schedule when and where they want to pick up, but also how often they are able to help. Another option is to help with transforming food into meals and food items for those in hunger. These volunteers received food safety certification in order to work with food, which is transferable to jobs and careers in the future. Most of these volunteers have been JEE Foods members with the help of some parents and other generous community members. JEE Foods is at the point in our growth where we have had few volunteers from the community come in, but we are closely working with organizations in our area dedicated to finding those who are jobless and in poverty jobs to start a continual system of volunteers.
To address the growing issue of members graduating high school, we have made the principle of JEE Foods transferable to any place where food is wasted and there is a need to rescue food. After JEE Foods members graduate from high school, they are able to take the idea of JEE Foods with them and start branches in their colleges or wherever they see the need. Most recently, our executive director graduated this past year and is attending Ohio State University. He has started a branch of JEE Foods in Columbus, Ohio, expanding our mission to even more areas of need.

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