Zero Percent launched in Chicago two years ago to connect non-profit organizations with nearby restaurants and grocery stores with excess healthy food. The plan was to work on a very hyperlocal level by connecting non-profits with food that was very close by, with Zero Percent sourcing the surplus food and the non-profit providing the transportation.
And the idea worked pretty well. Zero Percent will hit its 1,000,000th pound of rescued food later this month, as it has sent more than 800,000 meals from nearly 400 donors.
But the model was not well suited for organizations located in a food desert–neighborhoods where citizens are miles away from access to healthy and affordable foods. Non-profots in these areas, typically on the city’s South and West sides, were unable to cover the cost of transporting the food, and therefore couldn’t access Zero Percent’s resources. The people who needed access to healthy food the most couldn’t get it.
To solve this problem, Zero Percent has just launched foodrescue.io, a new crowdfunding platform to help make fresh food accessible in every Chicago neighborhood. The platform is designed for people to contribute “micro donations” ($1-$5) to non-profits in food deserts in order for organizations to cover the cost of transporting food.
“We realized that a lot of non-profits that were signing up in Chicago were much farther away from these sources of food,” co-founder Raj Karmani said. “You would have these great restaurants and grocery stores in the Loop or near downtown, and these non-profits that were signing up were 15-20 miles South or West of downtown.
“Through this platform, we can make sure we can bring fresh, nutritious food on a consistent basis to those neighborhoods.”
Money collected through foodrescue.io will go to the non-profit to offset the gas, time and other costs that come with transporting the food. Zero Percent says $5 can help transport 15 meals for people in need. Every donation is backed by Zero Percent’s platform that tracks how the money is spent, how much food it generates, and where the food was delivered, Karmani said.
“Now, anyone raising their hand saying, I’m hungry or I need access to fresh food, they have access to that fresh food,” he said.
Zero Percent works with more than 100 restaurants, groceries and companies like Farmer’s Fridge, Trump Hotel, Lou Malnati’s, and The Signature Room to collect excess food and donate what would otherwise have been thrown away. More than 70 non-profits use Zero Percent on a regular basis, including soup kitchens, shelters, pantries, and youth programs.