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Food & Hunger

There’s going to be an app to send extra food to underserved communities in NYC

Flickr: McHenry County College

The inequality in food distribution around the world is immense. Technically there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world, but still 795 million people suffer from hunger.

The US wastes over 133 billion pounds of food each year. This translates to 1,249 calories per capita (per person in the US) a day!

Hunger, looked at from this lens, is not an issue of lack of food but a problem of how to distribute food in the right way. How do you change an entire global system of food distribution in a cost-effective and accessible way?

Fortunately, creative and innovative solutions exist to combat hunger and food waste. I had the chance to learn via email from the co-founders, Samir Goal and Hannah Dehradunwala, of Transfernation: a nonprofit in New York bridging the gap between food waste from corporate companies and delivering excess food to underserved communities.

Samir and Hannah came up with the name Transfernation because their nonprofit is about more than giving food from one company to an underserved community. It’s about creating a movement to spur a cultural shift in perception of food distribution.

Yes, there is an app coming out soon!

And if you’re concerned about the quality of the food being repurposed, don’t be. The food Transfernation redistributes looks nothing like the image above. Check out the image below to a better glimpse of the type of food Transfernation redistributes.

transfernation-b1.jpgImage: Transfernation

Can you tell us a little about Transfernation?

Transfernation, Inc. is a registered 501©3 non-profit which leverages technology to ensure that extra food from events and other sources is repurposed toward supporting underserved communities. Transfernation, operates through a few different mediums. Our online platform is a system designed to partner social institutions with the means to redistribute excess food. We partner with events input by our corporate clients to execute on food redistribution. Our system acts as a Google Calendar for event opportunities and provides both parties with crucial logistical details.

Our second and primary medium is through volunteer coordination where we are able to marshal volunteers around events to pick up extra and bring it to social organizations we partner with. In the coming weeks we will launch a Transfernation platform on the SocialEffort App, which will entirely automate the volunteer coordination process. SocialEffort is a volunteer coordination and analytics platform and this release will serve similarly to an "Uber" or "Lyft" system but for food rescue operations. This will provide us with major efficiency gains and allows us to further scale our reach and impact. Finally we look to partner with delivery and transportation organizations which can provide us with pro bono transportation services.

Today Transfernation operates on a daily basis and rescues approximately 500 pounds or more per week which roughly translates to 300 plus lives impacted (Impact Calculated via Jefferson Foundation.) We pick up from a number of different events, caterers, and corporations throughout New York City including Instacart, Cater2.Me, Fooda,Indeed, Hale & Hearty, and others.

How did you personally become interested in wanting to combat food waste?

Hannah: Resource disparity within countries, especially when it comes to food, is something that's always interested me. You could be anywhere in the world- first world, third world, and the story is always the same. Regardless of how needy a portion of the population is with regards to food resources, the part of society that controls its excesses rarely ever come up with ways to send it down the gradient. I moved from the United States to Pakistan when I was eleven, and then Saudi Arabia at eighteen- this resource gap existed in the same breadth in all of them. Food resources, for reasons that are bogged in liability superstition, aren't considered a liquid resource. Living in these different countries that taught me that most nations don't suffer from a lack of resources, they suffer from resource misdirection, and that most countries possess unique capabilities to solve their own resource problems.

Samir: My passion for food began as at a young age as a combination of growing up as a foodie while simultaneously being exposed to the vast suffering experienced by the many who live in a constant state of food insecurity. The harsh realities of poverty in India as well as New York City stuck with me for quite some time although I never really knew what to make of my thoughts. My true entry into the food justice space came as a result of becoming very interested in health and nutrition. The fact that quality food [is] wasted [as] a product of wealth and class rather than [as] something available to everyone was mind boggling to me as I realized many diseases and issues such as obesity were often a product of economic means more than anything else.

Even more shocking to me was the contrast between the lack of quality food or even food in general to some when juxtaposed with the vast opulence and waste that was so common elsewhere. Those circumstances just did not make sense to me and I thought there must be a way to solve this problem. A few weeks later after Hannah and I connected we realized there was a simple solution: to give that excess food to the people who need it most, and from there Transfernation was born.

What are some challenges you’ve faced with starting Transfernation?

Hannah: Since Transfernation works off existing infrastructures, in the beginning it was difficult to find a way to bring them all together into one system. We work with corporations that have extra food, soup kitchens and food pantries with food storage & redistribution capacities, volunteer match organizations, and existing transportation services in NYC- we identified these as the necessary components to redistributing food. Finding a way to merge them into a system was initially challenging because each sector operates in a different way, has its own needs, and its own agenda to carry out.

What has been the most rewarding part of co-founding Transfernation?

Hannah: I've met some of the most innovative people I've ever come across- people with ideas for us, people who have ideas of their own. It's humbling to realize that people are behind your idea and your cause and are willing to support you.

transfernation-b2.jpgImage: Transfernation

Where do you see Transfernation growing in the future?

Samir: Transfernation has always been a mission driven organization and while we’ve made some great progress we’ve still got a ways to go. We recognize that we can’t do it alone but there will always be work for Transfernation while we as a global collective still face the challenges of hunger and food waste. We aim to be more than an organization or product but rather a culture shift in how we view our extra.

To do this we aim to make giving food as easy as throwing it away to change the dialogue around waste and extra. After we release our app platform this October we hope to automate the process of food redistribution as much as possible to increase our scale and eventual impact. Our new app will be developed with and by SocialEffort, a volunteerism-focused data analytics company responsible for the technology behind New York's citywide volunteering initiative. Individiuals and Corporations will be able to download the Social Effort app and log directly into the Transfernation platform. As we pick up new clients and opportunities we must ensure our operations stay lean and efficient to meet these needs.

Transfernation, is not just a solution for NYC or America but rather a global solution that is adaptable to the unique circumstances of each community we work in. We hope to be able to continue to expand our boundaries and impact more communities and individuals as we strive to work toward a world free of food waste and hunger.

What do you want to tell global citizens to inspire them to take part in reducing food waste?

Samir: Hunger, in many ways is a man-made problem as we currently waste more than enough food to end hunger. While, there is no one size fits all solution we all have a role to play in solving this challenge. It is the first time in human history where we can have meaningful dialogue on ending global social challenges and as a result no contribution is insignificant.


Go to TAKE ACTION NOW and help give everyone access to nutritious and affordable food.