US startup feeds businesses with food waste

Global Business

At a warehouse in Colorado Springs, Colorado, workers stack boxes of every imaginable type of food in preparation for delivery. This is a complex operation.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

“We’ve got great quality food at half price, at better service,” Megan Cornish, FoodMaven VP of Government Affairs said.

Cornish is with FoodMaven, an online marketplace that takes excess food from grocery stores and farms and sells it to restaurants and others, at about 50 percent of the wholesale price.

“We market to create revenue for producers in the grocery industry by taking their oversupply and imperfect products and finding buyers,” said Cornish.

That oversupply she refers to is vast. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates one-third of food produced globally ends up going to waste.

“In the U.S. most people are surprised to hear it’s the largest material in the landfill,” Virginia Till, Environmental Protection Agency Recycling Specialist said. “That’s more than plastic, more than paper, more than metal, more than electronics.”

Rotting food releases greenhouse gases. And it’s food that could have gone to the one in seven Americans the E.P.A.’s Virginia Till said don’t have enough to eat.

“And those two facts are what really gets me up in the morning,” said Till.

Using its website, FoodMaven acts as middleman between food suppliers and buyers. Suppliers get a cut of the revenues. What isn’t sold is given away.

Deliveries come within 48 hours, to schools, hotels, hospitals and restaurants like 530 West which primarily orders organic chicken.

“We saw that we were able to specifically get locally sourced items for a really great deal,” Nina Lee, 530 West restaurant co-owner said. “That’s what sold us.”

Logistics are FoodMaven’s top challenge. The company has been operating for a little over a year but has big ambitions.

“We’re growing” said Cornish. “We’re growing very fast.”

It’s one of 600 companies that are part of the Food Recovery Challenge, a U.S. government effort to get organizations to improve their sustainable food management practices. The U.S. hopes to cut food loss by 50 percent by 2030. FoodMaven thinks it’s on to something.

“We’ve heard that from a lot of people,” said Cornish. Why didn’t I think of that or why hasn’t anyone else thought of that?”

Too much of a good thing, food, has led to excess that’s costly, in more ways than one. This could be one answer.