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Here’s how one startup is trying to tackle hunger by helping businesses waste less food

November 30, 2022, 8:17 PM UTC
Photo of Jasmine Crowe-Houston
Jasmine Crowe-Houston at Fortune's Impact Initiative in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Erik Meadows for Fortune

Jasmine Crowe-Houston founded Goodr, a startup that uses technology to tackle hunger and food waste in 2017, after creating pop-up restaurants that served people experiencing homelessness in Atlanta a few years earlier.

For those pop-up restaurants, Crowe-Houston would bring out tables and chairs, and cook for up to 500 people. That’s until a video of one of her restaurants went viral online, and in the comments, people asked who had donated all that food. 

But none of it was donated, it turned out. Crowe-Houston was buying the food using her own money with the help of couponing. Still, it sparked an idea.

In her quest to attract food donations, Crowe-Houston researched what happens to unused food, which took her down the rabbit-hole of food waste. She was “blown away by how much perfectly good food goes to waste in this country, while so many people go hungry.”

And that was how Goodr got started, she said on stage at Fortune’s Impact Initiative on Wednesday in Atlanta. Fast-forward to now, and the company recently raised $8 million in venture capital funding. 

“We look at hunger not as being an issue of scarcity,” Crowe-Houston said. “If we are wasting 80 billion pounds of food in this country, there is no reason that nationwide tonight nearly 42 million people will go to bed hungry [and] wake up tomorrow not knowing when and where their next meal is coming from…we really are like a one-stop solution for a really big problem.”

In her research, Crowe-Houston found that businesses are already paying waste companies to throw perfectly good food away, so she thought that she could help businesses keep that food out of landfills. But she didn’t want Goodr to be a nonprofit because it would likely still be trying to prove its mission and get donations. As a business, she brought technology and metrics that businesses can use in their sustainability reports, among other things, to help work toward a solution. 

And the company has expanded from using only edible food to accepting all food waste, which it composts or turns it into renewable energy—all of which keeps it out of landfills. Goodr is also working with hotel chains and businesses like Dunkin’ Donuts—a relationship that started with a viral TikTok video of a Dunkin’ employee throwing out tons of doughnuts—to significantly reduce food waste and make those companies more sustainable. 

But it wasn’t always easy. 

“When I started this company in 2017, no one was talking about food waste or sustainability,” Crowe-Houston said. But now, the company is helping to rethink how to “solve and address food insecurity in this country.”

And she says there’s a big difference between access to food and access to meals: Giving someone 10 pounds of onions doesn’t mean you’re providing them with 10 meals—but that’s the traditional model.

So Goodr has created pop-up grocery stores, along with makeshift grocery stores within schools and low-income senior housing. And it’s also introducing its first mobile grocery store in Georgia early next year. 

“We’re basically making this food available for free with our partners covering that sponsorship cost and it’s just been a real innovative way to guarantee people seven to 10 days of food every time we touch them,” Crowe-Houston said. 

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