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Address Waste and Tear Hunger Asunder — The Zero Percent Way

Believe it or not, those huge, grimy-looking dumpsters you see sitting outside of supermarkets and restaurants house a sea of food that is still comestible.…

Believe it or not, those huge, grimy-looking dumpsters you see sitting outside of supermarkets and restaurants house a sea of food that is still comestible. Does this come across as absolutely absurd and perhaps just a bit awkward? Well, it is. You would be less shocked by this knowledge if you knew or hung out with squatters growing up — if you had, dumpster diving would make more sense.

The web and mobile platform, Zero Percent, founded by Rajesh Karmani, is addressing the fact that such an astounding amount of food goes to waste at restaurants and supermarkets every day across America. The startup, based in Urbana, IL, is on a mission to help all businesses within the US find ways to channel untouched or excess food into food pantries and soup kitchens. In addition to that, restaurants are able to post donations and discounts on food through the Zero Percent website. When a donation is posted, the system finds a volunteer by way of text and app alerts. The volunteer then picks up the donation and drops it off at a pantry or soup kitchen.

This concept managed to budge a nerve somewhere in my pessimistic constitution. From a logical perspective, how could donating food, rather than discounting it, prove to be necessarily detrimental? It is actually more beneficial for a restaurant to donate, especially given the subsequent reduction in waste and cost of disposal. It builds restaurant reputation as a significant partner against hunger and could potentially increase business as a result. There are even federal incentives for businesses donating food in good faith; that is, they receive a federal tax deduction and are protected from potential liabilities owing to federal and state Good Samaritan laws.

In many major cities, including New York, food rescue organizations perform basically all the work necessary in order to gather would-be wasted food from restaurants willing to participate, store it, and distribute it. City Harvest collects excess food each day from over 160 establishments in New York. Zero Percent, if successful, could potentially work to increase not only the number of restaurants involved, but the ease and speed of communication between restaurants and local food pantry volunteers.

Just how successful Zero Percent’s marketing strategies will be is a question to which only time can answer. Although it is fair to say that given Zero Percent’s emphasis on providing a free, smooth, and simple navigation experience to anyone wishing to access their platform, the startup should attract quite a bit of users.

This is just one more prime example of the way in which mobile applications and Internet can effectively work to make a complex quandary like food waste a bit more manageable.

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