It was the New York University’s (NYU) Entrepreneurs Festival,
a two-day event hosted at the university, and Transfernation organized a group of volunteers to bring extra food from the event to the
“When they arrived on site, there was so much food the volun-
teers had to take an Uber XL to get to the location that was just 10
minutes away,” says Samir Goel, Transfernation co-founder. “Many
of our pickups since then have been equally as large or larger, but
this one stood out because one of our volunteers messaged me and
said, ‘There was so much food. It weighed more than I do.’ We were
able to rescue 165 pounds of food from the event that day.”
Transfernation is one of a growing number of organizations
dedicated to eradicating hunger in the U.S. Since beginning in Oc-
tober 2014, it’s rescued more than 11,000 pounds of food from
more than 200 events across New York City, and the organization
recently released an app that operates like “Uber for food rescue,”
which enables real-time food recovery for meeting and event plan-
ners who use it.
“Many of the event planners and caterers have always wanted to
;ind ways to give the extra food since they see the waste every day,”
Goel says. “In the past, they were likely to be dismissed but today
there is increased focus on CSR, and especially food waste, and thus
Nancy Zavada, CMP (MPI Oregon Chapter), president of MeetGreen, says that it’s de;initely becoming much easier for event planners to connect with food banks, shelters, etc. through the use of
“We use Second Harvest’s website to help us ;ind food banks in
meeting destinations, Whole Earth Calculator (a very valuable app
for calculating and donating), Transfernation and Food Runners in
San Francisco get the food to the right people quickly,” Zavada says.
“This will only increase in the future and make it easier to donate.”
Rock and Wrap It Up!, in conjunction with EventMobi, created
the Whole Earth Calculator app.
“At its essence, the user enters the pounds of food that they are
recovering at an event. The app, using formulas from the EPA and
USDA, turns the weight of the food into estimated meals that will be
served and the carbon footprint that will be avoided by not having
the food go into land;ill,” says Jim Spellos, CMP (MPI Greater New
York Chapter), owner of Meeting U. and vice president of digital me-
dia at Rock and Wrap It Up! “Additionally, we provide the planner
the easy ability to socially share this great work with their constit-
uency within the app.”
Another new mobile app on the evolving food donation market
is Boston-based Spoiler Alert, which was developed at the Massa-
chusetts Institute of Technology and launched in November 2015.
“Similar to other industries, we’ve seen a lot of movement toward
using mobile and Web-based applications as tools for collaboration
and building sharing economies. Many of these developments have
come in the form of mobile apps to connect businesses, nonpro;its,
volunteers, drivers and peers,” says Ricky Ashenfelter, co-founder
and CEO of Spoiler Alert, when talking about food donation technology. “Our team is excited to be working more toward enterprise software that is geared for businesses. In the future, we expect to see
more software-hardware integrations, including with sensors, food
storage and handling infrastructure and vehicles.”
MISPERCEPTIONS AND LOGISTICS
While it’s getting easier to donate extra food, there is still a perception that the practice is illegal. Donors, though, are protected by the
U.S. Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
“Some still don’t know about the law. Some know about it but
don’t trust it. Liability risk casts a long shadow and the job of the
corporate lawyers who say ‘Don’t do it’ is to minimize their client’s
risk,” says Tyra Hilliard, PhD, CMP (MPI North Florida Chapter), an
attorney and meeting industry speaker. “It’s up to the client (hotel,
restaurant, group or other) to say, ‘We know there’s a risk. We think
it’s small. We’re willing to take it to do the right thing.’ We take busi-
ness risks all the time. But conventional business says to only take
risks when there are potential (usually ;inancial) rewards at stake.
We have to change our concept of the risk/reward model.”
“Most corporations are unaware of the legal protections and
literature around food waste but have an inbuilt fear of lawsuits,
which is in part due to our lawsuit-heavy culture,” Goel says. “The
current standard of liability is food that is knowingly un;it for hu-
He offers a great way to describe the difference.
“It is the difference between donating a can of milk you left out
for a day or two, which a reasonable person would not consume,
and donating extra food from an event, which you would bring home
for your family,” Goel says.
Any successful food recovery program, Ashenfelter says, is dependent on education, planning and collaboration.
“Step one is [planners] familiarizing themselves with appropri-
ate food handling and safety best practices (as outlined by ServSafe
and other governing bodies),” Ashenfelter says. “Step two is working
with staff to build in standard operating procedures for handling
donatable food and securing the appropriate storage containers and
equipment to ultimately distribute it. Step three is identifying a re-
cipient organization capable of distributing this food to people in
In addition, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is time (and
what planner doesn’t struggle with that?).
“What I always say to caterers and venues is that at ;irst it will
indeed be a bit more time-consuming as you establish a relationship
and a rhythm with your local food rescue operation,” says Dana Siles,
community service chair for the National Association for Catering
and Events’ (NACE) New England chapter. “But over time, just as any
The food weighed more than an average r n age
volunteer.That’s how much there was
available for donation.