Interface aims to link restaurants to shelters in need of food

Henry Ascencio/Staff
Feeding forward was founded by Komal Ahmad, who graduated in May 2012 and is now a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies.

One recent UC Berkeley alumna is hoping her new initiative will bring society one step closer to curbing world hunger.

Feeding Forward, which officially launched mid-February, is an online and soon-to-be mobile interface that facilitates communication between food service organizations and charities in the Bay Area. The startup was founded by Komal Ahmad, who graduated in May 2012 and is now a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Ahmad’s concept is simple. Restaurants with surplus food at the end of the day can post on the Feeding Forward interface announcing that they have extra food. Shelters or churches in need of food will then receive an alert, telling them about the available surplus food. Through Feeding Forward, the two organizations can arrange a trade in a matter of minutes. Food that otherwise would have been wasted is saved, and fewer people in the community go hungry.

Ahmad said that more than 263 million pounds of food are wasted per day in the United States, while one in six Americans goes hungry. However, just 5 percent of the 263 million pounds of food would be able to feed 4 million people, she said.

“It’s absurd, disgusting, outrageous,” Ahmad said. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way (to solve this).’”

To combat this issue, Ahmad created BareAbundance, which partnered with organizations like Cal Dining to provide meals to those in need. She soon discovered, however, that there were often communication problems between donors and recipients. Thus, she created Feeding Forward to facilitate the communication.

“We possess … the power, knowledge, technology … all that we lack is the action,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Olivia Levine, Feeding Forward’s director of human resources, in an email. “Initiatives such as (Feeding Forward) tackle the final problem, implementation.”

Feeding Forward is currently operating across the Bay Area, from Berkeley to San Jose. The organization made its first transaction on Saturday, feeding more than 450 people. It intends to expand nationally and, eventually, globally.

Feeding Forward not only aims to reimagine the current charity system but also works to educate the community about hunger.

“Feeding Forward (is more than) a tool — it’s a platform for asking questions, spreading awareness,” said senior Javier Kordi, director of communications. “When people think hunger in America, people think it’s because there isn’t enough food, but there is. We’re hoping (to see) an emergence of a new discourse (about hunger).”

Earlier this month, Ahmad also pitched Feeding Forward at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, where she was presented as one of the country’s top 100 young entrepreneurs.

Ahmad said she invites UC Berkeley students to get involved with the cause.

“This is the generation that is going to solve this problem,” Ahmad said. “We are going to show that the millennial generation … can make this change in the world. Be the change you want to see in the world, and join Feeding Forward.”

Contact Alison Fu at [email protected].