At the upcoming WasteExpo Food Recovery Forum (June 28-30 in Las Vegas), one exciting session will focus on “Preventing Food Waste and Fighting Hunger in the U.S.: Award Winners of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation’s Innovation Fund.”
This session highlights three companies’ initiatives to help create communities free of hunger and waste, and how they shifted during the COVID- 19 pandemic. One of the presenters will be Maen Mahfoud, CEO of Replate, which is an organization that manages food donations for a variety of surplus-food generators.
In advance of the session, we sat down with Maen to learn more about his company’s innovative solutions to tackle food waste.
Waste360: Can you elaborate on how Replate aims to address the food waste problem, and how your system works?
Mahfoud: We’ve built a platform connecting restaurants, caterers, offices and other businesses that have surplus food to organizations in the community who need it. Our engineers have created algorithms that match food resources with the most beneficial recipients, and seek efficiency and reliability in processing those logistics. Our food rescuers and transportation systems ensure all health and safety measures are adhered to during distribution. Waste tends to be generated by either blemished produce; goods that have passed their expiration dates but are still edible; overstock and overproduction. By establishing a simple process for businesses to repurpose these surpluses, we counter waste as well as climate change and food insecurity.
Waste360: What would be a typical scenario for Replate to place food, from beginning to end?
Mahfoud: Here’s a scenario: A business provides catered lunches to its staff, and orders more than enough to go around. Accordingly, there is a surplus amount of prepared food to spare. That business goes to our platform; creates a pickup request noting if it’s a one-time pickup or a recurrent one; what food it has available; and selects a time frame for the food to be collected. Our rescuer arrives during that time frame, picks up the food and delivers it to a nonprofit that has requested meals. In return, the business receives an ETA and gets access to a dashboard with in-real-time impact metrics necessary for its sustainability metrics or to comply with SB1393.
Waste360: What kind of data can you provide for organizations?
Mahfoud: We provide data on the total pounds of food donors have contributed, and the impact of those donations, which includes the number of meals created, pounds of carbon dioxide diverted from the air and gallons of water saved from our food system. Additionally Replate is implementing a nutritional data feature that shows a breakdown per type of food contained in each pickup.
Waste360: You have said that Replate is different because it has an engineering team and a product manager. What advantages do those resources provide?
Mahfoud: Our engineering team and product manager have the advantage of adding sophistication to the process. We’re not simply picking up food and bringing it to a pantry or dropping it off at an arbitrary location. Our technology enables us to identify what nonprofit organization needs or would benefit most from any specific donation, and dispatches the delivery to the food rescuer most suited to manage it. Essentially we are building an infrastructure that allows for efficiency and reliability in the food rescue space that also ensures customer satisfaction, and further reduces waste and maximizes value because we know the food is going to people who will use it. Our product manager constantly streamlines the process between our clients and engineers to make sure it’s seamless, delightful, and successful.
Waste360: Who are Replate's partners at this point?
Mahfoud: We have many food donor and nonprofit partners, including Netflix, Amazon, SF Market, Dig, Slack, Walmart, Covenant House, Project Rousseau, Bowery Mission, Berkeley Food Network, and others. Additionally, DoorDash supplements our rescue service so that we can deliver food if none of our rescuers are available or located in a particular city. DoorDash has sustainability and social impact initiatives that supports this cause, and the company is compensated by Replate for their service.
Waste360: Replate Rescue has a goal of 50 million quality meals delivered in five years. Do you have an idea of how many food-waste-tons-diverted that would equate to?
Mahfoud: That would equate to 60 million pounds of food rescued, 16.4 billion gallons of water conserved, and 123 million pounds of carbon dioxide diverted.
Waste360: Is there any role in this model for waste collection service providers?
Mahfoud: Yes, there are always going to be food scraps (trimmings, ends, gristle, etc) that are either undesirable or inedible, and it is best for those to be turned into animal feed, composted, or anaerobically digested.
Waste360: What kind of impact ultimately would you like to see for Replate Rescue?
Mahfoud: Replate Rescue is an infrastructure that allows food surplus to travel efficiently from businesses to people in need at the right time in the right place. We aim to collaborate with other food rescue organizations and nonprofits to power them to do their work at scale. Similarly, to enable major food businesses to create impact, and achieve sustainability/ESG goals via our matching technology and seamless platform. Our goal is to improve the circularity of food and how it’s packaged and delivered so that we can create a world that doesn’t expire.
See his latest blog, How do we create a world that doesn’t expire? where he writes, “Food never has to expire. We can hold onto it longer, it may not be as tasty, but a lot of products are consumable and nutritious beyond best buy dates. We can also repurpose it, bring it to those in the community who may not have access at all let alone to something nutritious. We can feed it to animals, We can compost it, utilizing this resource to fertilize the land and replenish stock. Similarly, we can look towards storing and shipping it in products that are compostable or reusable rather than standard plastic and paper. We can shop locally, support farmers that rotate crops and properly manage the land, or even look towards new solutions like vertical farming to reduce transportation and shipping processes. All these solutions counter waste, improve efficiency, and fully realize the value of resources.
It’s exciting to see more companies focusing on sustainability initiatives now. Equally exciting there are plenty of tech-enabled, scalable solutions that can mitigate, repurpose and reduce food waste — food rescue is one of them. Donating surplus lunch caterings or breakroom provisions, taking note of inventory, and allocating what remains to food rescuers can make a huge impact on your carbon footprint and benefit those in the community. Consumers should follow suit too, we should all be paying attention to what we buy and how we manage refrigerator space. This will support a cycle where we reduce (or eliminate!) waste, and where there is no label or limit to life on this planet.”
He and the rest of the prestigious panel of experts will cover this and much more at WasteExpo.
To learn more about the WasteExpo Food Recovery Forum, and to register, visit https://www.wasteexpo.com/en/conference-and-events/food-recovery-forum.html.