(July 20, 2020) – Today ReFED released a new report called Scaling Food Recovery and Hunger Relief: Learnings from ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator to provide guidance to the entire food system – including food businesses, hunger relief organizations, funders, technology companies, and government agencies – on how to support innovative food recovery organizations as they scale their work to reduce food waste and fight hunger. The report’s findings and recommendations come from ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which was launched in the fall of 2019 with support from the Walmart Foundation and in partnership with +Acumen, IDEO, and Feeding America. The Accelerator’s goal was to catalyze ideas and inspire actions that will lead to a doubling of healthy food available to Americans facing food insecurity – a number that may grow to more than 54 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Feeding America.
In today’s food system, food recovery organizations play a critical role in rescuing perfectly good food from going to waste and helping to distribute it to those in need. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, their work has become even more essential – and challenging. Business closures and supply chain disruptions have led to an increase in the amount of food at risk of going to waste, all while more and more people are seeking food assistance. Recovery organizations have ramped up their operations to meet the demand, but this has caused them to deplete their resources at an accelerated rate – which highlights the necessity of running their operations more efficiently and effectively.
“When we launched ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, we had no idea that many of the challenges we were helping our participant organizations solve would become even more prevalent due to the onset of COVID-19,” said Alexandria Coari, Capital & Innovation Director at ReFED. “In the face of this new reality, the need for food recovery organizations and their counterparts across the broader food waste ecosystem to be innovative and scale has never been more urgent.”
To help these organizations accomplish this, ReFED’s new report outlines eight best practices to help nonprofit food recovery organizations grow their impact potential and overcome barriers to their efforts. The best practices include ensuring efficiency and consistency in logistics, transportation, and distribution; establishing strategic partnerships and collaborations; and developing robust food safety procedures and education for donors about liability protection. The report recommends enhancing the implementation of these best practices by leveraging cross-cutting tools like technology – which can help with the coordination of last-mile deliveries through on-demand logistics services – and human-centered design – which can be used to ensure the safety and dignity of the recipients of supplemental or emergency food. Also included in the report are more than 20 case studies, plus expert insights from a network of world-class food business and technology executives, capital providers, innovators, and subject matter experts, including Kari Armbruster from The Kroger Co. and Jasmine Crowe of Goodr, illustrating how to put the best practices into action.
The report also outlines specific actions that food recovery stakeholders can take to drive impact. For example, food businesses can examine how food recovery currently fits into their overall food waste reduction strategies and assess the costs and benefits of engaging in food donation. Public, private, and philanthropic funders can review the investment types at their disposal to determine how they can help grow the impact of food recovery. Potential “enablers” like technology and logistics companies can explore how their existing products, infrastructure, knowledge, and other assets could be applied to this space.
“We were excited to support the continued development of these innovative community-based food recovery organizations through the Accelerator,” said Eileen Hyde, Director, Sustainable Food Systems and Food Access for Walmart.org. “We believe that the best practices and insights gleaned from the program will help food recovery organizations across the country rise to the challenge of supporting the growing number of people needing access to healthier, nutritious food during this tumultuous time.”
The Accelerator was made possible by support from the Walmart Foundation and was presented in partnership with the nonprofit impact investment fund +Acumen, which brought their expertise with helping organizations build viable earned revenue models. Accelerator programming included a in-person “Learning Lab,” produced in partnership with human-centered design experts at IDEO and focused on putting end recipients at the center of the food recovery model; and a final Showcase designed and co-hosted by Feeding America, which demonstrated how food waste reduction and hunger relief efforts can best come together.
“As the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the country, Feeding America uniquely understands the dichotomy between how much food is wasted and the growing number of individuals seeking supplemental or emergency food, especially now with COVID-19 continuing to impact every part of society,” said Liz Baldridge, Managing Director of Food Industry Partnerships at Feeding America. “We believe this report from ReFED will act as a tool that helps to ensure an equitable, effective, and dignified future food system.”
“The education, the relationships built, plus the exposure gained from the Accelerator have been invaluable. I would recommend this to any organization – not just food recovery leaders,” said Jennifer Boone, Director of Sourcing at Brighter Bites.
ReFED continues to highlight the work of the organizations that participated in the Accelerator and are featured in the report. For example, cohort members 412 Food Rescue, Boston Area Gleaners, Brighter Bites, Plentiful, and Replate have used the learnings from the Accelerator to help scale their impact during the COVID-19 crisis and received additional grant support from the ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund, which launched earlier this year to provide emergency funding to mid-sized organizations across the U.S. that could rapidly scale food waste reduction and hunger relief efforts.
ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow. For more information, visit www.refed.org.