Silicon Valley has some competition in Palm Beach County, where a group of bright young minds is developing an app that will help feed the hungry while preventing food waste by restaurants, country clubs and catering services. The FRESH (Food Recovery Exchange to Stop Hunger) app is being tested with both food donors and recipient nonprofits and is the result of a unique event hosted by the Quantum Foundation last spring.
The foundation, the region’s largest private health financier, hosted a two-day “hackathon” at Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway to bring technology to the aid of philanthropy. At the event, tech-savvy students were asked to solve real problems faced by nonprofits. The winning team, Tech Garage, came up with the idea of using an app to connect food donors with organizations that could distribute the food to the hungry — and the FRESH app was born. “We believe that there’s great opportunity for synergy between philanthropy and technology,” said Eric M. Kelly, president of the Quantum Foundation. “When these incredibly smart young people bring their skills and their hearts to bear on a social issue, great solutions can emerge.”
The Tech Garage team consists of Rohan Challa and Kirill Safin, who both attended Delray Beach’s Atlantic High School and now attend Stanford University. They are being mentored by several experienced business and technology players, including Daniel Alberttis, vice president of government and not-for-profit business banking at Morgan-Chase.
“We love that technology can work to do good and not just make money,” said Alicia Rootes, program manager at FRESH. “Everyone hates the idea of good food going to waste, but there has always been that issue of how do we actually get good leftover food to those who need it most? The answer is to use nonprofits that already feed the hungry in our county. The key was finding an easy, tech-based solution to connect the two.”
The Palm Beach County Food Bank is interested in the app’s development, and as it goes through testing, the idea keeps growing. Now, the team is considering using the same platform to recover other items that can be recycled to those who need them, perhaps furniture, vehicles or clothing. They’ve created an umbrella entity called WasteMeNot to house these ideas as they develop.
To date, half a dozen local agencies have downloaded the FRESH app as part of a pilot testing phase, and a “live run” is scheduled for the near future. A key component will be working out a way to transport the donated items, using either the recipient organizations’ volunteers or possibly a transport partner.
FAU has also helped this fledgling idea take root. The FAU College of Business Entrepreneur Boot Camp Team has been working weekly with Tech Garage, and on Nov. 14, Chartwells (the caterers who supply FAU’s football games) donated 97 pounds of food, received by Boca Helping Hands through the app.
FRESH is seeking food donors — restaurants, grocers, country clubs and caterers — to give raw ingredients or prepared dishes by joining its partnership. To learn more, visit www.wastemenot.org.
ABOVE: Kirill Safin and Rohan Challa work on their FRESH app.