Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED) recently announced the cohort of 10 organizations that will participate in its Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which kicks off this month and aims to catalyze ideas and inspire actions that lead to a doubling of healthy food available to the 40 million Americans facing food insecurity. The accelerator is supported by the Walmart Foundation and in partnership with +Acumen.
“The accelerator’s nationwide open call for applications confirmed ReFED’s hypothesis that this type of program will provide value in the form of helping food recovery organizations overcome some of the biggest barriers to increasing the amount of nutritious food they can deliver in a dignified manner,” said Alexandria Coari, director of capital and innovation at ReFED, in a statement. “Some of these barriers include funding models dependent on grants versus earned revenue, a reliance on volunteers instead of paid staff, underutilization of technology solutions and a lack of collaboration and best practice sharing across the sector. These are just a few of the topics we’ll tackle throughout the accelerator.”
The accelerator’s highly customized curriculum will combine a virtual classroom with in-person ReFED Learning Labs that focus on co-creating earned revenue models and technology-enabled solutions using human-centered design.
More than 125 candidates applied for the accelerator. The selected cohort ranges from long-standing food recovery organizations with hundreds of employees servicing thousands of donors, to newly formed innovative organizations that leverage concepts from the sharing economy and apply them to food rescue. What unites them is the desire to work together on a shared mission—to become operationally sustainable and deliver more impact at scale in a dignified and convenient way.
“Growing awareness about the scale of senseless food waste in this country has catalyzed existing organizations to innovate their paradigms and inspired energetic entrepreneurs to launch creative new models that use this surplus food as a resource,” said Emily Broad Leib, assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, in a statement. “As an Expert Network member, it has been incredible to see the response to ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which will build the needed network and resources for these innovators. I am excited about the announcement of the 2019 cohort and cannot wait to see them take the next steps to address this major societal issue of our era.”
The cohort for the first-ever Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator includes:
- 412 Food Rescue, Pittsburgh: 412 Food Rescue’s Food Rescue Hero is a real-world solution combining technology, last-mile logistics and community engagement to create a new food recovery and redistribution network that responds to the donation challenges of food retailers and the food access barriers of those experiencing hunger.
- Boston Area Gleaners, Waltham, Ma.: Boston Area Gleaners’ Surplus Commodity Crop Program compensates farmers for making timely donations by charging a service fee to food banks, which still receive high-quality product at a lower price compared to the wholesale market.
- Brighter Bites, Houston: Brighter Bites sources fresh, seasonal and primarily donated produce and systematically distributes it to underserved communities using evidence-based nutrition education and fun food experiences.
- Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Nogales, Ariz.: Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is exploring technology solutions to manage inventory, logistics and data flow to move 100 million pounds of produce from donors in Nogales (a major port of entry) to food banks nationwide.
- Eat Greater Des Moines, Des Moines, Iowa: Eat Greater Des Moines’ initiative combines software, shared-use refrigerated vans and a paid driver program to make the food rescue network more dynamic, effective and equitable while providing support to organizations throughout the food system.
- Philabundance, Philadelphia: Philabundance reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing food access to approximately 90,000 people per week in the region. An established food bank operating since 1984, the organization aims to transform the traditional food banking model by leveraging both the scale of the established system and the flexibility of new technology startups.
- Plentiful, New York: Plentiful is a digital platform improving client dignity and efficiency at food pantries. Plentiful eliminates lines through reservations, reduces data redundancies and creates access to real-time service information so more food can be recovered and delivered effectively.
- Replate, Berkeley, Calif.: Replate’s technology platform enables businesses to schedule on-demand pickups for their surplus food, and the organization’s paid food rescuers bring the donated food directly to those experiencing food insecurity in the community.
- Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, New York: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to rescue and donate food that would otherwise be wasted. The organization charges $20 per pickup with no weight minimum and employs a web application to engage members of the community to volunteer and be a transportation solution.
- Seeds That Feed, Fayetteville, Ark.: Working with regional farmers and healthcare providers, the Seeds That Feed ‘pHed’ initiative (pronounced ‘fed’) provides direct-to-door access to free fresh produce and other healthy foods for home-bound and at-risk populations experiencing chronic illness.
"We are a small nonprofit with a big vision,” said Alyssa Snyder, co-founder and chief seeder at Seeds That Feed, in a statement. “The opportunity to work alongside nine other like-minded organizations, and in conjunction with an Expert Network of more than 50 leaders in the field, is an absolute game changer. Improving the lives of our neighbors through food is what drives us forward, and the opportunities ReFED is creating are quite literally providing the fuel that we've so desperately needed."
Each participating organization will receive $30,000, plus an additional $100,000 will be awarded to a selected winner at the end of the accelerator. In addition, organizations will have access to a world-class group of food business and technology executives, capital providers and subject matter experts who make up the accelerator’s Expert Network, which includes Afresh, Albertsons, Aramark, Baldor Specialty Foods, Blue Apron, Bon Appetit Management Company, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, Center for EcoTechnology, Chick-fil-a, Cisco, Claneil Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Closed Loop Partners, Compass, DoorDash, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Fast Forward, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Feeding America, Fink Family Foundation, Food Donation Connection, Food for Soul, FoodMaven, General Mills, GoodR, Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic, HelloFresh, Imperfect Produce, Nestlé, Next Course LLC, Ovio, Pisces Foundation, Posner Foundation, Rabobank, Sodexo, Spoiler Alert, Starbucks, Taylor Farms, The Ajana Foundation, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Wonderful Company, Tyson Foods, United States Department of Agriculture, Village Capital, Wells Fargo, Whole Foods Market and World Wildlife Fund.
“ReFED is thrilled with the response that we received to the open call for applications, which has enabled us to put together a cohort of truly exciting organizations positioned to improve and expand food recovery throughout the U.S. food value chain,” said Chris Cochran, executive director of ReFED, in a statment. “With the support of our project partners and Expert Network, I have full confidence that a key outcome of this initiative will be a significant increase in food recovered for the 40 million Americans currently facing food insecurity.”
Overall, the more than 125 applicants to the open call reported statistics that indicate the impact they’re already having on the food recovery space. Collectively, these organizations:
- Employ more than 5,600 full-time employees
- Mobilize 190,000 volunteers
- Run a total annual budget of $240 million
- Need $30 million in additional funding in the next 12 months
Additionally, and consistent with trends previously identified in ReFED’s Innovator Database:
- 71 percent operate locally (reach within one city or state) versus regionally or nationally
- 32 percent receive the majority of their funding in the form of grants from foundations
- 63 percent have female or underrepresented minority leadership
“We are committed to help innovate and strengthen the food system through philanthropy, and this includes a focus on the reduction of food waste,” said Eileen Hyde, director of strategic initiatives for the Walmart Foundation, in a statement. “ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator is a key part of this strategy, and we’re proud to be involved in the project.”