App Created in S. Florida Helps Feed the Hungry and Cut Food Loss

Emily Miller
Sun Sentinel
December 23, 2015

App created in S. Florida helps feed the hungry and cut food loss

BY EMILY MILLER STAFF WRITER

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SLATKOW & HUSAK PUBLIC RELATIONS/COURTESY

Rohan Challa and Kirill Safin work together to build the F.R.E.S.H. app. The two Atlantic Community High School alumni are using technology to help stamp out hunger.

Two Atlantic Community High School alumni are using technology to increase the number of food donors in Palm Beach County and better connect them with hungry families in the area.

The former Delray Beach students, Rohan Challa and Kirill Safin — now 19 and students at Stanford University — developed an app designed to feed the hungry while preventing food loss by grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, caterers and country clubs.

The app, Food Recovery Exchange to Stop Hunger, or F.R.E.S.H., provides an online exchange that enables businesses and individuals with excess food to donate that food to organizations that feed hungry children and families.

“Everyone hates the idea of good food going to waste, but there’s always been that issue of how do we actually get good leftover food to those who need it most,” F.R.E.S.H. program manager Alicia Rootes said in a news release. “The answer is to use nonprofits that already feed the hungry in our county. The key was finding an easy, tech-based solution to connect those organizations to food donors.”

Local food donors can use the app to post a picture with information about excess food. Pre-screened agencies can claim the food and arrange for pickup or delivery.

The app is available on iOS and Android platforms via download from the App Store or Google Play. Challa said he has noticed some hesitation from local businesses and nonprofits to use the app, but his goal is that the app will one day be used to fight hunger on a global level. “We’re just hoping people want to sign up and use it and want to make a difference,” he said.

To date, six local agencies have downloaded the F.R.E.S.H app as part of a pilot testing phase. Last week, a food service for Florida Atlantic University used the app to donate 166 pounds of mashed potatoes and papaya to the local nonprofit Boca Helping Hands.

“This is the type of entrepreneurial thinking that’s going to help us conquer hunger,” Boca Helping Hands executive director James Gavrilos said. “America doesn’t have a food problem. We have a distribution problem, and what F.R.E.S.H. has done is it’s streamlined the process.”

Gavrilos said the app is extremely user-friendly. Currently, it’s free to use, though FAU students are working on a business and revenue model that may result in adding a fee.

“I am technologically a Neanderthal,” Gavrilos said. “I am not on Facebook. I don’t really know how to use my phone, and I can use this app very easily.”

The team is considering using the same platform to recover other items that can be recycled to those who need them, such as furniture, vehicles or clothing. They’ve created an umbrella entity called WasteMeNot to house such ideas as they develop. “We love that technology can work to do good and not just make money,” Rootes said.

F.R.E.S.H. was born at a two-day “hackathon” at FAU’s Tech Runway in March. At the event hosted by West Palm Beach health funder Quantum Foundation, young, tech-savvy students were asked to solve problems faced by nonprofits in the county.

“We believe there’s great opportunity for synergy between philanthropy and technology,” said Eric M. Kelly, president of Quantum Foundation. “When these incredibly smart young people bring their skills and their hearts to bear on a social issue, great solutions can emerge.”

To learn more about the app or to become a food donor, visit WasteMeNot.orgemiller@tribune.com, 561-243-6531 or

Twitter @EmilyBethMiller

 

 

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