It’s baffling to me that it’s somehow easier to cater an event for eleven-hundred people than it is to donate the leftovers. You can request a ride, order food, and buy a blazer from a manufacturer in Italy faster than you can figure out what to do with the leftover food at the end of an event. Unless you want to spend hours trying to find an organization that can accept it, then several more on the phone figuring out whether it’s at the right temperature, the right kind of food, packaged correctly and how to transport it. Understandably few people – myself included- would choose to participate.
I built Transfernation in 2016. We’re an on-demand food rescue service based in NYC. Our goal is to change the way that food rescue is carried out in cities by making it easy, efficient and on demand. We built an app that allows food donors to request pickups for untouched food instantly. It connects them with a driver (via DoorDash + Postmates + other local delivery companies) and routes the driver to the closest soup kitchen. Transfernation has redirected over 1.6 million pounds of food from restaurants, corporate cafeterias, stadiums, and events to people and places that can make use of it.
We recently found our place in the cross-sector mobilization to keep people safe, fed, and at home. COVID-19 gave us the unique opportunity to feed people while providing employment opportunities for local delivery drivers and couriers who were being laid off from rapidly closing food businesses. We leveraged these drivers to act as a delivery network for emergency food providers: restaurants, food pantries, and other meals programs, to deliver hot meals and groceries to senior centers, frontline workers, and other vulnerable populations. Since the lockdown began in April, we have redistributed over 28,000 meals.
Food rescue is not just about feeding people; the way we do it is just as important as the end result. A large part, and arguably one of the most important aspects of working on any social issue, is making sure that the messaging we put out into the world elicits a participatory response. Regardless of the issue you’re tackling, all societal problems have cross-sector causes, and no sole industry has the reach, infrastructure, information or resources to solve anything on its own. The solution requires a cross-sector response. I believe one of the major reasons why food pantries and rescue organizations are currently able to field the exponentially increasing, COVID-related need is because of all of the different industries that are stepping in to help: providing transportation, financial resources, volunteers, online ads, visibility, and other necessary infrastructure support. This pandemic, if anything, has highlighted what multi-industry partnerships can help us achieve, that a single organization or even a single sector never could have.
The Women of Worth award was the first time Transfernation received recognition from an industry outside of our own, one that had nothing to do with food, hunger, or waste, and it changed the way that I thought of effectiveness in the social impact space. L’Oreal Paris, by providing us with visibility, a platform and a microphone, allowed me to speak to a completely different and massive global audience about trash, a problem that we’re all directly or indirectly responsible for creating, and our potential to remedy it.
Their support was an invitation, an incentive, and a justification for other industries to participate. The way we’re going to solve these deeply entrenched systemic issues is through buy-in from outside of our respective echo chambers. I think that’s exactly where we’re headed.
To Donate to Transfernation COVID-19 efforts please click here: http://transfernation.org/.
For the 15th year, L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth is calling for nominations, where you can submit a deserving woman you know to receive a grant. The nominations are open now through June 30th.