Food waste is a major problem in the U.S., with an estimated 119 billion pounds of edible products getting tossed out each year, according to data cited by Feeding America. That represents 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion wasted. The problem occurs at every stage of the supply chain, from farmers and packers to shippers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.
Fixing logistical issues will go a long way toward providing a long-term solution. That’s one of the strategies at Goodr, an Atlanta-based startup that helps businesses prevent waste and support community meal programs.
Using Goodr’s technology, customers can donate surplus food that would otherwise be thrown out and then track the process in real time, from pickup to donation. Goodr also partners with organizations nationwide to get groceries and meals to local communities in need.
Goodr was founded in 2017 by serial entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe-Houston. The seeds for the idea were planted four years earlier when Crowe-Houston learned that more than 70 billion pounds of food are placed in the garbage in the U.S. yearly, even as an estimated 50 million Americans struggle with hunger. She decided to do something about it and began by feeding the hungry every Sunday out of the kitchen of her one-bedroom Atlanta apartment.
That led to a series of pop-up restaurants that fed up to 500 people a week. Crowe-Houston finally turned the enterprise into a formal business, launching Goodr as a food waste management company that connects restaurants, hotels, and other businesses with nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry.
“I had friends and family members that were experiencing hunger, and that really made me think I had to move forward,” said Crowe-Houston.
On its website, Goodr refers to hunger not as a “scarcity issue” but as a logistical one.
The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough food — the problem is preventing a surplus from being thrown out and ensuring it’s distributed to the right places.
After researching food waste, Crowe-Houston discovered that businesses pay companies to haul good groceries away. Her idea was to change the model so firms pay to have someone carry surplus items to people who could use them. The concept sounds simple enough, but getting the company off the ground was not easy.
“When I started this company in 2017, no one was talking about food waste or sustainability,” Crowe-Houston said.
Things have changed since then — partly because hunger and food insecurity took on much more significant meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The upshot for Goodr is that it recently raised $8 million in venture capital funding.
The company has since expanded from using only edible items to accepting all food waste, composting it or turning it into renewable energy.
“We’re basically making this food available for free with our partners covering that sponsorship cost,” Crowe-Houston said. “It’s just been a real innovative way to guarantee people seven to 10 days of food every time we touch them.”
Goodr’s solutions cover two essential areas: surplus recovery and hunger relief.
Surplus recovery is designed to incentivize businesses to donate excess food and have Goodr distribute it to organizations that can use it. Incentives come from tax deductions, trash reduction, and improved environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores. The recovery business also includes organics recycling, in which the company works with organic waste haulers to separate and collect compostable items.
To fight hunger, Goodr provides technical and logistics services to help businesses feed local communities. Solutions might include pop-up markets, grocery and meal delivery, and student snack packs for local youth. The company also partners with schools and organizations to provide sustainable, easy-access pantries for children and their families.