Max Curry loves his job. As the logistics manager with Second Servings of Houston, a food rescue operation, he coordinates between more than 400 food businesses and 120 local nonprofit partners, including shelters, affordable housing, and soup kitchens. Through his work, Curry, who has been with the organization since 2018, has enabled the delivery of $60 million worth of food, and the redirection of more than 9 million pounds from the landfill.
The 40 Under 40 award winner spoke with us about how he keeps the logistics straight, and why he enjoys the work he does.
This interview has been edited for length.
Waste360: Can you share an overview of your major responsibilities?
Curry: We're a food rescue operation. We have donated food that would otherwise go to waste from grocery stores, caterers, any licensed kitchen, or distributor. We pick up that food, and we have five refrigerated vans, and we take it to any 501(c)(3) charity that serves food to people. We can't give it out on the streets, but [we work with] anyone who is helping others.
My role is to coordinate what we pick up, and when, and where it should go. Because so many of our recipients have different needs, they use different things. Whether it's a soup kitchen, a domestic violence shelter, or a food pantry, they all use different food and different types. It takes a good bit of work to make sure that the right thing is going to the right people, and that we get it all distributed.
Waste360: How do you find partners who want to work with you? How do you find the food?
Curry: We have Lisa Miller, who's our Food Partnership Manager. Part of her role is to go out on the road, find donors, whether it's grocery stores or different caterers or food distributors. A lot of it, though is, there's a lot of turnover at these companies—and someone goes from one grocery store to the next—and they’ve worked with us previously, and they know that we're reliable. We come pick up, we take everything, and we come when we say we're going to come. So much of it is just general reliability. We do seek them out too, of course, but we don’t do a lot in the form of advertising.
Waste360: What do you find personally satisfying about the work that you do?
Curry: This is the first job that I've had that I genuinely, really, like what I do, at the end of the day. The knowledge that what we do is helping people get fed and keeping food that is great from going to a dumpster, it really makes it easy. It's a privilege to work here.
Waste360: How did you find your way to this type of work?
Curry: It was completely by accident, frankly. We have events from time to time where there will be some event at a hotel or an event venue, and we'll have volunteers to go get all the extra food, whether we're the charity recipient or not. My aunt volunteers for those. At the time, I was not loving what I was doing—I think I was finishing school. I started here as a food rescue driver, as just kind of a temporary gig, and they had just gotten a new van. I fell in love with it.
I still get to get in the van from time to time, but I do kind of miss it. I'm on the phone all the time and I hear the aftermath, but [when you’re driving] you're seeing directly the food getting dropped off, and donated, too. The people who donate this food, they don't want to throw it away. Particularly, in the places where they're making all these meals, for these people in these giant kitchens who spend days preparing this stuff, to throw it in the dumpster is just a tragedy.
They needed help as we were growing, doing more logistics stuff. I was happy to volunteer to help out there. I've been here ever since. When I started, we had one van and we'd just gotten our second. Now, we're at five and waiting on buying more.
Waste360: As a logistics manager, which just sounds like you have a ton of plates spinning, what are some tips for staying organized? How do you figure out quickly what works for what partner?
Curry: So much of it is just experience. I’m trying to hire someone to help me out, writing stuff down. It used to just be in my head, which isn't helpful for anyone else. It's really just experience. I mean, there's no book to it, of course. Food rescue exists but there's really no overarching guide to do it. Some places do it differently from others.
I really love our model because we don't store anything in our office. Anything we pick up, it is a same day pick-up and drop-off model, which makes it really easy for a lot of reasons.
It's super scalable. What we're doing here can be done anywhere that has a little bit of capital, access to vans, and willingness to network to find these donors and recipients. It doesn't take anything specialized other than that. It's one of the things I really like about how we operate.
Waste360: Are there any new programs your organization is planning to launch?
Curry: We're doing a grocery pop-up program. We're going to low-income housing properties and taking all the food that we're getting from grocery stores and setting it up as an opportunity where residents can come through and pick out what they want, of course, all free to them.
It’s been really fun, and also has given us a lot of volunteer opportunities. It's been really popular everywhere, and it's our biggest area of expansion recently.