20.05.2016

This super-smart app is the Uber for food waste

FOOD | | | |

Photo: Copia

San Francisco’s Copia app connects catering leftovers with people who’ll eat them citywide – and sends a driver to pick up the food

If you’ve ever been in a business meeting where a vast array of sandwiches and cakes are prodded and grazed over, left to slowly dry out before ending up in the bin, then you’ll understand how companies play their part in the scandal that is food waste.

While businesses can’t be blamed for wanting to keep employees’ spirits and blood-sugar levels up during the working day, they too often over order, which seems wrong, considering there are so many hungry people who cannot afford to buy food.

Copia –which is named after the Roman goddess of abundance – works by matching companies that have leftover food with homeless shelters

This problem is really acute in San Francisco and the Bay Area – a place that is home to some of the world’s richest companies, known for innovation and free food policies, but also struggling with a homelessness problem that is out of control. This conflict inspired Komal Ahmad to found her hunger app Copia in the area.

Copia works by matching companies that have leftover food with homeless shelters. True to its West Coast roots, Copia uses mobile technology to do this, sending a driver to pick up and deliver the food within two hours: like an Uber for hunger. The company arranges a pick up using the Copia app and pays a fee of $20. The donor then gets a report of who received the food, as well as a tax write-off.

 

Komal Ahmad shares her food-sharing vision (Photo: YouTube/Women in the World)

Komal Ahmad sharing her food-sharing vision (Photo: YouTube/Women in the World)

 

Ahmad came up with the idea while she was a student at UC Berkeley, after chatting to a homeless veteran who hadn’t received his benefits. She took him for lunch and when she noticed that the college cafeteria was chucking away uneaten food a lightening bold struck. She came up with an idea that could help solve one of the world’s “dumbest problems” – as she puts it.

Since its 2014 launch, Copia, which is named after the Roman goddess of abundance, has fed over 720,000 hungry Americans. It currently operates in cities across the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and San Jose. It plans to expand across the US this year, with the aim of growing internationally in 2017.

Copia succeeds by drawing attention to food waste and hopefully it will make these companies reassess how much they buy in the future

Copia taps into the circular economy to redistribute food, but still it requires cars to transport it around. It would be better if companies reduced their consumption in the first place. But all considered, Copia succeeds by drawing attention to food waste and hopefully it will make these companies reassess how much they buy in the future.

Speaking at the Women in the World conference earlier this year, Ahmad said: “Now we can also do something that’s good for your company, that’s good for your company’s brand, that is good for the community, that’s good for your body and mind, and that makes you feel good too.”

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