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Episode 116: A Hunger to Solve Food Waste (Transcript)

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[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.

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[00:00:27] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Jasmine Crowe. She's the CEO of Goodr, and Goodr provides on-demand and scheduled surplus food recovery solutions to ensure the edible food is fed to people in need and not landfills, we love that. Hi, Jasmine, and welcome to the show today.

[00:00:48] Jasmine Crowe: Hi, Liz. Thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:51] Liz: I'm so excited to hear your story. I would love to start in the beginning and hear a little bit about your background and how you found your way to Goodr?

[00:01:00] Jasmine: I'm excited to be here. My story is such an organic one. I was feeding people that were experiencing homelessness on the streets of Downtown Atlanta, and I was also feeding senior citizens, who were experiencing hunger strictly, just because they didn't have that excess income. I started doing that in 2013, and I continued doing that for about three and a half years, until a video of one of my pop-up restaurants that I was having underneath a bridge here in Atlanta, where I'm based, went viral on Facebook.

I woke up one morning to thousands of friend requests, thousands of comments, and millions of views on this 15-second clip from one of these restaurants. This at the time is something, again, I have been doing for three and a half years before it actually went viral, but one of the peculiar things that people kept on saying was, "This is so amazing, which restaurants donated the food?" The truth was nobody.

I was couponing, I was price matching. I was taking five and $10 donations. I was purchasing all this food, cooking all this food, serving all this food, and then going home and cleaning up quite a kitchen, I'd tell you. As I saw that question, I started thinking like, "How cool it could be if I could get the food donated. How much easier it would be for me, and my life, and how many more people I could feed".

One simple Google search, "What happens to extra food at the end of the night from restaurants?" Really is what led me to get started on this journey. I just couldn't believe that so much food was going to waste while so many people were going hungry, and that really was the impetus that became the reason why I started Goodr.

[00:02:53] Liz: That's amazing, that you saw that need, and then you jumped in. I watched an interview you did, and I was so impressed with the way you attack this food waste challenge. You saw a massive problem, and you didn't know how to solve it, but you really dedicated yourself to making it work. How was that process of figuring it out, and keeping faith that you would find the technology or create it yourself?

[00:03:16] Jasmine: It was definitely a tough process. I will never say that it was easy. I'm not a technical founder, but here I was wanting to use technology to solve this problem, and I spent a lot of time learning as much as I could. I remember, one of my friends used to say -we were roommates at the time- just how late I would be up on my laptop, just working, working, researching, researching so much so that that laptop, I don't even have it anymore. I think it was because I was up until like four o'clock in the morning on YouTube, and researching, reading reports. I would look at anything I could about food waste and hunger.

Also, the waste industry as a whole, because I realized that I was entering that industry just as much as I was doing the social service that was my background. My background was in the social impact space. I really worked on solving problems at scale for pretty much all my life, but when you think about the technology aspect and the waste aspect, those were new to me, but I spent a lot of time and it came to me after a lot of work, it wasn't easy.

I think a lot of people we'll say, "Oh, Goodr it's just massively successful and you guys don't need that. You're winning at everything", and that's so far from the truth because the reality is we need a lot. We're still very new. We still have to get people to believe that this could be a real business and that this is a viable opportunity, and we can solve hunger in different ways. It's definitely been a lot harder than I think people have thought it has been for me.

[00:04:59] Liz: I bet. Everyone sees current success, they don't realize the sweat and tears that goes into it [inaudible 00:05:05] before. How the technology behind Goodr? I read some block chain. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:05:15] Jasmine: Yes. What Goodr does is we have a secure ledger and a followed chain of custody for how our food moves. We really are looking at two things. One we're dealing with tax incentives. Businesses that donate food to Goodr, have the ability to write off a percentage of what that food actually costs them. What we have to do is make sure that our clients can never go back and say, "Hey, that day we donated 10 pizzas. Go ahead and change the number to a hundred, so that we could get a larger tax deduction." It always has to be verified in our chain.

Also, we're allowing our drivers to be tracked by any of our users so that they can see where the food is at all times, see how fast it moves. Once the food actually is delivered to one of our partners, they signed for it like they would a UPS package, and then a lot of information then gets distributed into our clients' dashboards, including what those items were, the tax value of those items, all of that. That's essentially what we've really built.

[00:06:22] Liz: Very cool. I know you recently tweeted that Goodr is building heat maps and that your data food recovered can show customers their actual impact. How do you see that working, and when will you guys roll that out?

[00:06:36] Jasmine: We are looking at doing that, probably within the next year. I think where we are now is just really needing to raise more funding, but we're showing a lot, our customers are able to see a lot of their impact right now. They can see the items that are going to waste the most. They're able to see the pounds of food that they diverted, the meals that they provided.

Goodr also handles organic ways, so we also take food that's non-edible as well. Our first recourse is always to get the most edible food to people in need, but we compost, we get food to animal feed. We really are a one-stop solution for our customers' food waste needs.

[00:07:16] Liz: That's amazing because organics recycling isn't always easy. How did you roll out that diversion plan?

[00:07:24] Jasmine: We became a B Corp in 2019, and our mission has always been, feed more, waste less. I remember saying to the team, we're leaving a lot of food behind. By only getting the edible food, we're leaving a lot of food behind for these clients, and it was just evident that there had to be more food that was going to waste.

What I began to surmises, that if we offer the solution to handle all of the food waste, will really help them address food waste at a greater scale. If we're only taking what's edible, then what's non-edible, most likely, it's still going to landfill, so it's not helping us with our overall mission.

It took a lot, we had to develop relationships with a lot of MRFs. We began reaching out to local farms, urban gardens, urban farms, making sure that we knew who was composting, what was the capacity that they could take. We then began to order bins and set up our own operation in the Metro Atlanta area. Then we started reaching out to other providers across the nation, and we were not doing business, we would essentially just contract them out. That's how we got started in it.

[00:08:39] Liz: I love that you took that extra step, Jasmine. That's huge.

[00:08:43] Jasmine: Thank you.

[00:08:44] Liz: You've had some high-profile partnerships with people like the Saints Wide Receiver Michael Thomas, and the WNBA. How helpful is that in spreading awareness for your efforts, and Goodr itself?

[00:08:57] Jasmine: I think is great. Goodr has some amazing clients, clients that work with us, both on the food waste side, but also clients that work with us on the hunger relief side. That's how we've been working with the New Orleans Saints Michael Thomas, that you referenced, also the WNBA, and the NBA. We work with clients like Six Flags, and WellStar, and the Atlanta Airport, to make sure that we're addressing their food waste.

We have a really good, I guess, client base. It does help. Sometimes just getting one customer is the hardest thing for so many businesses, and I'm really grateful for every customer that we receive because it's through them that we get at our customers, and it's through their word of mouth and them saying like, "Hey, I worked with that company, Goodr. They were amazing", that helps us grow. I'm always really grateful for that.

[00:09:49] Liz: I bet. That's fantastic. Let's talk COVID-19 a little bit. How did the pandemic impact your work since there seems to be an even bigger need? I know you work with a lot of waste generators like schools and commercial outlets.

[00:10:05] Jasmine: Yes. Let me just say it definitely impacted my work so much so that I felt like I remember March 8th, like it was yesterday, because that was the day Georgia essentially went on quarantine locked down, and I kept on thinking like, "We're going to go out of business." I was just watching the whole world shut down, and thinking like-- every customer that we focus on, Goodr focus has really large food in one location, large amounts of foods, large venues. That was our focus.

We believed going restaurant to restaurant, wasn't going to be sustainable and we wouldn't be able to scale fast enough, and our focus was really airports, convention centers, stadiums, and arenas. Big event locations, hotels, colleges, and universities, theme parks. The bigger the venue, the better. Then, of course, it was like, "Hey, we need to socially distance, and we don't want to have large venues staying open." I was very afraid that we wouldn't make it through the pandemic.

During that time, the fear, I really just thought to myself like, "Jasmine, you're the best day. You really know how to be a helper, and help people. There's going to be a lot of people in need. Think about all of the businesses that are closing and people that are going to be without work and are going to need food, and need your help." I went to Twitter that very next day and I said, "Hey, if your business is shutting down, please reach out to Goodr. Allow us to get that food because there's going to be a lot of people in need", and so many people started calling and reaching out to us.

What I did is I also asked people on social media, would they be willing to sponsor pickups, sponsor our costs so that we can still pay our drivers to go and get this food. A lot of people did just that. We ended up getting massive amounts of food. Something like almost a million pounds we received in the first month or so. We were clearing huge stadiums that see 80,000 people, NASCAR stadiums, football stadiums, basketball, arenas, colleges, and universities. You name it. We were just indicted with so much stuff.

We started then getting calls from places like Cisco that had all the food that they essentially used to take and deliver to the restaurants and the convention centers. Now they couldn't sell it and they were trying to get it donated. That was how we first, started to see this uptick in business. Then I started thinking about all the kids that we're going to need access to food, and in going back to what I said, that hunger was not an issue of scarcity, it was a matter of logistics.

I reached out to one of my contacts that happened to be working with the Atlanta Public School District, and that became one of our very first clients on our essential food distribution channel of our business. What we did is we would pick up all the excess meals that the schools would prepare, and then we would deliver them directly to the doors of students. To the schools essentially, we're offering a free pickup of breakfast and lunch for families, but so many kids ride the bus to school every day, their parents don't have cars. How were they going to get access to food if we didn't bring it to them? That's what we did.

[00:13:35] Liz: So thoughtful. Oh my goodness. I can't believe how much thought you put into all of this. Amazing.

[00:13:41] Jasmine: Thank you.

[00:13:44] Liz: How do you think we were doing now compared to when the pandemic first started? In terms of the food supply, food waste.

[00:13:55] Jasmine: Food waste is still essentially leveling off. It's not getting better. Last year they said it was about 80 billion pounds that actually went to waste, so probably more than we had seen in years before. I think that we're going to get better.

I'm not sure because it's so different in every city. Both of my parents, as well as my partner, both work in the healthcare industry. They're always, "Oh, Jasmine, we may go back into another lockdown", they scare me.

Then I hear and see some states where they're already pretty bad in situations where they're instituting again mass mandates or restaurant capacities are going back to 50%, that you see that it's fluctuating. In Atlanta, we have been open, I would say after that first two weeks quarantine, after that, I think, Atlanta pretty much opened, and from that realm, people have gotten to a better place, but there's definitely still a lot of need. There's still a lot of things that have to happen. 

[00:15:07] Liz: Definitely. I think the pandemic really shined a light on food waste, and the food for the needy, for sure. I love that you're doing all this to help, especially where the children are concerned, too.

[00:15:23] Jasmine: Yes. This is the best job ever. I love it. We help a lot of people and a lot of people love what we're doing.

[00:15:34] Liz: Absolutely. I liked the way that you approached it. Obviously, you're doing this for the greater good, but also, I read that you realized that you had to speak the language of business people too and let them know that there's actually cost savings to this. Can you talk a little bit about that experience? 

[00:15:55] Jasmine: Yes. I was missing every single time when I was pitching this, and so I started to think like, "What am I doing wrong here? Why am I not getting these businesses to come and join me to solve hunger?" I couldn't believe it, because this is the greatest thing in the world. We all should be trying to end hunger. We all should be trying to help our neighbors have access to food.

What I realized is that I had to go back to what I learned in graduate school in my MBA program was called with them, which is what's in it for me, and that's how a lot of businesspeople think. I had to come back to them and say, "Hey, this is what's in it for you. You're going to be able to make better production and ordering decisions, because if you've never tracked your waste before, you really can't make manage what you don't measure, and Goodr system is going to allow you to measure your waste. It's going to allow you to measure your efficiency".

I started talking to them about case studies, and ways that things can be better for our communities. I gave them an example of one of our clients that we worked with early on, who continue to make pork, and that was their number one most wasted item until finally I went back to them and I said, "Hey, chef. Look at your data over the last four weeks, the number one most wasted item that you're pushing out is pork. I think people that work here don't eat pork as much anymore", and he was like, "That's so true", and they were able to change their menu.

Giving them that kind of insight back, talking to them about the tax incentives. Talking to them about their reduced waste bills, because food is heavy, it brings rodents. You're going to get a lot more pickup. If we can help you reduce the amount of food that you're putting in your actual bins, now we can help you potentially save on your overall waistband, and then I just talked to them, sadly, sometimes, about the hunger element last.

Almost just like, this is the cherry on top, "Amongst everything else, you're going to improve your carbon footprint. You're going to be more sustainable. You're going to help your neighbors. You're going to save money. You're going to be more productive, and you're going to help fight hunger." That's how I had to change it.

[00:18:13] Liz: Absolutely, and the end goal is still the same, but now you're just getting more people interested because you had to speak their language, and like you said, what's in it for them.

[00:18:23] Jasmine: Exactly.

[00:18:24] Liz: How is the capital funding part going for you? I constantly hear how women and minority women receive such a small percentage of the overall capital. How's it going for you?

[00:18:35] Jasmine: It's not going great. I definitely think that Goodr has been really traditionally underfunded given what we've done and how we've really built a business, with that being said, I feel like I'm a big person in just manifesting, affirmations, and what's coming for me. I do believe that something great is coming for us, and that we will find the funders that really want to get behind this, but until then, what we've really focused on is customers.

I've told my team, "Hey, if it's going to be hard for me to fundraise, if it's going to be hard for me to get investors, in what we've got to focus on is customers." A lot of times I'm always getting compared to like-- There'll be companies in other parts of the world. In Sweden, there was a startup that does similar work to Goodr and they had raised $10 million, and I remember one of my investors sending it to me like, "Hey, look at this", or another investor sent me a story about another startup that started also in Europe that had raised like $40 million.

They're like, "Oh, what's the difference between you guys?" I was like, "Like $40 million, that's the difference. They raised $40 million. That is what's the difference between us." I think sometimes it's getting those things through are always unique. But for the most part, like I said, I feel really good about the work that we're doing, and I think at some point, people will as well.

[00:20:05] Liz: Good. I'm sure you're right about that. Do you have any advice to other women out there who are discouraged by all the noes and lack of interest?

[00:20:14] Jasmine: I took over 200 meetings. 280 meetings, exactly was the number that I took. I always remember that because my birthday is February 18, so 2/18 is a day that I just always know. When I finally started tracking the meetings based off of calendar invites, phone calls, and all of that stuff. I think I started tracking pretty early on. I maybe started tracking after 20 meetings. By the time I got to 200, I was like, "This might not happen for me", but I just continued to keep going because I still had investors that were meeting with me, and really what it takes is just one. It really takes just one investor to say yes.

My advice is to keep going. If you get one yes, sometimes that FOMO kicks in for all the other investors, and they're like, "What does that investor see that maybe I don't see? I've got to be part of this as well." Even though it took me over a year to raise just a million dollars, so not even a lot of money, Liz, just a very small amount of money to kickstart the business. Once I did get that first yes, probably within two to three weeks, everybody wanted to be involved at that point. That's what you're looking for.

You're going to get a lot of noes before you get the yeses. My mom always used to say, "You're going to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince", it's very similar in the startup [unintelligible 00:21:41]. I got those noes and you're going to get them too. I say that to women, and women of color all the time, that it's not easy but it's worth it. Once you finally do get the money to go after your business, hire people, and build your vision, nothing is better than that. I always say to myself, while I think Goodr is going to be extremely successful, I think this is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity.

The waste industry is a huge industry, 27% of everything in landfills right now is estimated to be food. I think that we have a lot before us, but I always just say every single day that my business is in business, someone who would not have otherwise had a meal, gets to eat because of Goodr, and we are making societies that we serve in, better. The environment is better. We're helping to reduce CO2 emissions. We're helping to save water. We're doing a lot of different things that are really inherently good.

At the end of our business, however it goes, of course, I would love to see us one day IPO, and go all the way to the top. Along the journey, we've done so much good that I'll always just be proud of what I've done. I think that's what everyone who has a business idea has to think about it. Is how happy will be if they get to where they want to be.

[00:23:09] Liz: Absolutely. I just love your story because it's so much about persistence, being optimistic, and patient, really, and that's a story of a true entrepreneur, I think. Moving quickly, but being patient until everyone sees that as viable.

[00:23:26] Jasmine: A hundred percent, and it's going to take time. That's the thing that people just got to know, it's going to take time but it's always worth it. I'm always proud to say, we've done a lot more in revenue than we've ever raised in investment, and that makes me feel really good.

[00:23:43] Liz: It should.

[00:23:44] Jasmine: Yes, it makes me feel good. Because we change the [inaudible 00:23:48] of our company, and it just sounds really great.

[00:23:52] Liz: It definitely is. I can't wait to continue to watch you grow. It's going to be awesome. We talked a little bit about this, but food waste is such a large contributor to climate change, and it's funny now that I'm in this industry and I get a lot of questions about recycling and sustainability, so I can imagine family friends, random cousins asking you about climate change advice, and food waste. What are some solutions that you think we can all consider in our own lives to offset this?

[00:24:25] Jasmine: One of the things that I do is I try to shop for meals. I know it's a lot, but I'm a very much like, "Hey, I'm going to make spaghetti tonight", and I go and just purchase just for that one night. I used to go and buy groceries, sometimes for the week or I'm going grocery shopping and this is going to last me two weeks. What I found is that I often was wasting a lot of food, because sometimes I'd go out to eat or I'd forget that I had so much food at home. I'm very intentional now of just shopping for the meal at hand, or maybe just shopping for two or three days at hand. I know it seems like a lot, but that helps.

Also, encourage people to use their garbage disposal at their house, instead of throwing food in the trash can. Just use that garbage disposal, generate it, use it, and sometimes that's really helpful as well. Freeze things. A lot of times, I'll buy containers of fruit, sometimes at the grocery store, it'll be like a thing of pineapples, then right before it's about to go bad off, I'll freeze it and I'll use it in a smoothie. Those are the big things I always say, buy for your meal, try and cook for the number of people that are in your house, and be realistic on how you guys actually eat leftovers.

If you know, you're only likely to have that item one other time, so you're going to eat it that night, and then one time for leftovers, then you really make sure that you're buying the smallest packages of meat or the sauces. Not making all the spaghetti noodles. Those are the things that I've started to do when I do have waste, I try and either compost it, because we have a garden at our house now, so I'll try and compost it myself. We've been doing that and it's been unique. We definitely have been getting quite a few little squirrels and things, loving our compost. But if not, I will definitely use the garbage disposal, and then I freeze things, save them, and use them again.

[00:26:28] Liz: That's all great advice, and I'm with you. I used to shop a week at a time, and I have two growing boys. I thought they would just eat everything, and I wouldn't have a food waste issue, but with sports schedules and everything else, I'm just better off every couple of days going like you.

[00:26:43] Jasmine: Yes, it really is the best thing to do. I was terrible and I challenged myself personally to be a zero-waste, in my house, person once I really got involved in this company. It took a lot, and it still does, but I do really good. If we go out to dinner, we eat our leftovers. When we take food home, we eat it. That's the thing that we try and do, and I'd tell you, a lot of people hate going out to dinner with me because they always try to eat all their foods. I think I've scared people into not wasting food.

[00:27:22] Liz: [laughs] I love it. You're having an impact. What's next for you and for Goodr?

[00:27:30] Jasmine: We are still expanding. We want to be everywhere. I see that Goodr should be in every city, in every state, every country, because hunger and food waste exist everywhere, and I believe that we should as well. We're going to indefinitely, try and raise some additional funding, hire more people. We've just won a really great contract that we can't really speak about yet, but it's with the large university and healthcare system. We'll be helping. This will be probably the first university in the nation to be zero waste and zero food waste alongside that. I'm excited about that.

We've recently brought on Six Flags, is the first theme park in the country to go zero waste. We're excited about expanding with them across their 26 parks. Doing the work that we're doing with the WNBA is extremely exciting around hunger, and I'm just excited for what else is to come. You shouldn't really look to see Goodr largely entering markets like California and New York, New Jersey where food waste legislation has recently been passed and will be put into action coming up in 2022.

Until then, just know that we are really out here working every day to make sure that more people have access to food, and more companies are not wasting perfectly good food that could be going to somebody in need.

[00:28:57] Liz: I'd love to hear these plans. I was going to ask about New Jersey because they're feeling like a pioneer to me. 

[00:29:04] Jasmine: It's super exciting. I'm really excited to see what's happening with New Jersey.

[00:29:09] Liz: Awesome. I hope you're a part of that, and I can't wait to watch you expand. I'm in the tri-state area up north a little bit from you in Connecticut, so I'm close to New York and New Jersey, so I will support you any way I can. 

[00:29:24] Jasmine: Thank you so much. I really appreciate this support, it meant a lot to me.

[00:29:29] Liz: Me too. Thanks for sharing your story. I love your story from a purpose perspective and an entrepreneurial perspective. As a woman, especially, I'm just so impressed by what you're doing.

[00:29:43] Jasmine: Thank you so much.

[00:29:45] Liz: Awesome. Thank you.

[00:29:48] Jasmine: Thank you so much. Have a great day.

[00:29:51] Liz: You too. Take care. Thank you for listening. It would mean the world if you would take a moment to rate or review this podcast, and if you share it with us on one of our social networks, we are giving out some fun Nothing Wasted Podcast swag, so just tag us and see what you get. Thanks so much.

[music]

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