Californian woman develops phone app to feed almost 600,000 homeless people in San Francisco

Aftab Ali
Friday 26 June 2015 16:04 BST
Ms Ahmad with some of the surplus food she's helped give to the homeless
Ms Ahmad with some of the surplus food she's helped give to the homeless (Via Feeding Forward)

A Californian woman, who developed an innovative phone app, has since helped to feed almost 600,000 homeless people – after she became tired of America’s growing food-waste problem.

Three years ago – when she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley –Komal Ahmad – now aged 25 – was walking near campus when a homeless man approached her and asked her for money to buy food.

Ms Ahmad, instead, invited the man to lunch and, as they ate, he told how he was a soldier – recently returned from Iraq – and that he had run into a rough patch.

After that experience, which, she says, “blew my mind,” Ms Ahmad began an initiative at the university which allowed the dining hall to donate any excess food to local homeless shelters.

Now CEO of a not-for-profit service called Feeding Forward, Ms Ahmad told New York’s Daily News how excess food-wastage “is literally the world's dumbest problem.”

She added: “Hunger is bad – it’s terrible everywhere – but in America, in the most prosperous, industrialised country in the world, this just shouldn’t exist.”

Putting the problem into perspective, she said: “Imagine a football stadium filled to its brim. That’s how much food goes wasted every single day in America.”

So, how does the Feeding Forward app work?

It allows companies and event planners to donate their surplus food to those in need within their area – with the click of a button.

They tell Feeding Forward drivers where they are located and the drivers collect the leftovers, taking them to where they are needed most.

So far, Feeding Forward only serves those in the San Francisco area, but the company has managed to feed some 575,000 homeless people in the city.

America’s food-waste problem – and indeed the world’s – is not down to a lack of food, Ms Ahmad said. “It’s an inequitable distribution of food.”

Since the story was featured on the CNET news website, Ms Ahmad said she has heard from thousands of people who are eager to see the company expand further out.

““I didn’t expect it to blow up,” she told Daily News. “People as far as Nairobi, Bangalore and Hong Kong have wrote us [sic] asking us to expand Feeding Forward to their cities and countries.

“I didn’t expect it to blow up.”

The Feeding Forward app is currently undergoing a revamp but will be available again from August this year.

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