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Each year, the U.S. allows more than 130 billion pounds of food go to waste, according to research from the Agriculture Department. That's a tragedy, especially when you consider how many families and homeless individuals continue to go hungry.
USA TODAY: 6 Hacks to Reduce Your Food Waste and Save
It was this thinking that inspired a student in California to help divert at least some of those precious calories to those in need. Back in 2011, Komal Ahmad, a student at UC Berkeley, launched a program that allowed her school's dining halls to donate excess food to local homeless shelters. Within three years, the same program spread to more than 140 other schools throughout the country.
The program is called Feeding Forward, and has already fed more than half a million people in the San Francisco area alone.
How does it work? Through a website and an app, Feeding Forward matches local homeless shelters with businesses that have a surplus of food. When a company or event planner has leftovers, they can log into the app and provide details about the donation. A driver is then dispatched to pick up the food and deliver it to a shelter or food bank.
Pretty simple, right? It's not surprising that Ahmad has been contacted by people in Africa and Asia for help developing similar programs for their communities.
"This is literally the world's dumbest problem," she told the New York Daily News. "Hunger is bad—it's terrible everywhere—but in America, in the most prosperous, industrialized country in the world, this just shouldn't exist."
The idea is similar to the one behind services like LeftoverSwap, which connects neighbors (instead of organizations) to help get the most out of leftovers. In both examples, there are concerns about food safety and the spread of foodborne illness, which may incite regulatory intervention over the sharing of leftover meat.
Still, it's a clever solution to a pervasive problem. After all, in 2015, losing 31 percent of the annual food supply to the garbage is simply unacceptable.
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