At just 22 years old, Komal Ahmad set out to create an app called Copia, which connects businesses with excess food to communities in need.
"Just as easily as you can use your phone to swipe right, or request an Uber," said Ahmad, "You could use that same piece of technology and know for 100% fact, that that food is actually going to be consumed by people who are in need."
Copia currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area. Businesses sign up with the app and within minutes of a request, Copia will be there to take perishable food to people in need. Donations come from various places such as stadiums, arenas, grocery stores, and catering companies. Copia employs drivers, called Food Heroes, to transport and distribute the food to nonprofits around the city.
"They pick it up either in their personal vehicles or refrigerated vans and trucks, and if they're in their personal vehicles then it's in insulated bags so that it maintains cold temp as well as heat, and it's delivered within the hour. Food moves extremely quickly and they'll automatically be routed both to the pickup as well as the delivery drop offs."
"A lot of our food heroes are actually veterans as well as previous recipients of our food," added Ahmad. "Now they come on as paid drivers and it's not just a handout, but a hand up."
Ahmad is hoping that Copia's business model is an incentive for companies to participate. Copia charges participating businesses anywhere between 35 to 50 cents per pound of food. In turn, Copia diligently tracks and provides data so that companies can use a tax deductible write off, enabling the companies to receive money back.
"By our documentation, it ends up being 200 to 400% return, after our fees, and that's a cash benefit. It ends up paying you more to give away that food, and you also get money that you would have otherwise left on the table, or worse, in the trash," said Ahmad.
"It costs over $218 billion, and businesses pay $50 billion just in over producing, over purchasing, and the disposal of food. It costs money, and if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of methane after the United States and China. It has ramifications beyond just financial implications."
There are many businesses and nonprofits across the country focusing efforts to solve world hunger. However, creating an app and using technology as the answer is certainly a different approach.
"We want to create technology and solutions that actually solve the problem. We waste three times as much food as there are mouths to feed. Clearly it's not a scarcity issue, it is a logistics issue, and we're going to figure out that logistics solution," said Ahmad.
"We can also in the future license our technology to to other preexisting local organizations that are doing smaller scale food recoveries to help make their operations more efficient. Eventually we can also use this technology to help redistribute other resources so medicine, medical supplies, books, clothing. We could do that at scale all over the world."