All photos courtesy of Zero Percent. Facebook.

By Ashley Alt

According to USDA estimates, between 30 and 50 percent of all food is discarded. Meanwhile, one in every six Americans struggles with finding and having enough food to eat. One startup is fully committed to reducing that median 40 percent statistic to zero percent, and in turn, ending the hunger problem.

Zero Percent is an online food rescue platform that donates fresh, surplus food to Chicago’s underprivileged population. By partnering with local restaurants and food vendors, the organization seeks to help businesses and nonprofits make their shared dream of ending hunger a reality.

Through teaching users to learn to reduce with its custom data analysis and reporting features, simultaneously saving tax dollars while doing good in the community, the influential organization calls their system a “win-win-win.”

Joey Molloy, Zero Percent’s Communications Manager, spoke candidly with us on the impact of the startup and pursuit to communicate the fight to end world hunger, once and for all.

“Our company works to solve such a massive problem for the underprivileged and the environment with a realistic solution,” Molloy told us. “The results are apparent with every delivery, proving the profound impact each one of us can have in the community.”

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Executing a Worldwide Issue

Founder of Zero Percent, Rajesh Karmani, frequented one particular bagel shop while studying at the University of Illinois. When he noticed how much food went unsold at the end of each day, he asked the owner what was done with all of the surplus, disappointed to find out that all extra food was thoughtlessly thrown away.

Since no nearby charities or food pantries had the resources to pick up and transport the leftover food, Karmani decided to utilize his computer science background in working to bring donors and charities together, and Zero Percent was born.

Now a Moxie Award-winning startup backed by Impact Engine and Angel investors, Zero Percent’s mission of delivering unused food to nonprofits is starting to create chatter.

“Our solution is entirely community-based,” Molloy stated. “We believe we stand as a link between businesses, charities, and the public. We have an answer that works for everyone, and the more people we can get involved, the more good we stand to do for Chicago.”

The Zero Percent’s app works as a bridge connecting businesses with fresh, unsold food to their team of hired delivery drivers who ensure the food gets to the correct charity, shelter, pantry or soup-kitchen.

“We never turn a nonprofit away that is willing to accept donations when we have food to give, regardless if they are a small community group or the Salvation Army,” Molloy said of establishing partnerships. “These include recovery centers, church groups, homeless shelters, pantries, centers for underprivileged youth and women’s shelters; any place food can get to those who need it.”

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The organization also partners with catering companies to pick up leftover food from one-off events, some of their donor partners including well-established Chicago chains like Freshii, Hannah’s Bretzel, Farmer’s Fridge, Wow Bao, Blackwood BBQ and Sopraffina.

Snacking For A Purpose

Most recently, Molloy has been working to build attention for the company’s consumer app Snack Pass since receiving so many questions from individuals on how to get involved. Snack Pass allows users to donate to Zero Percent’s cause while letting customers sample food from around the city, the money collected going toward funding for the organization in expanding the reach to as many nonprofits and restaurants as possible.

 

For those wanting to get involved, there are flexible options for how much a user wants to donate, and as a thank you from Zero Percent, customers enjoy free snacks at a number of the organization’s partner vendors.

“These sort of movements rely entirely on community involvement,” Molloy explained. “We encourage people to speak up and tell their friends about us.”

Community-Driven Conversation

Molloy expressed that the results of Zero Percent’s efforts are seen up close on a daily basis, witnessed from the smiles on people’s face being fed. On a more quantifiable scale, the organization has rescued around 1.6 million pounds of food from going to waste since its founding.

While there are organizations out there putting forth efforts to reduce food waste, Zero Percent has approached the issue more pointedly, finding an altogether, targeted solution that helps businesses, the community, and the less fortunate.

Molloy believes that this generation is fully capable making this a part of their daily routines.

“There is no reason Zero Percent can’t be the organization to put an end to this epidemic,” Molloy said. “If it can work in Chicago, it can work anywhere.”