42 million Americans deal with food insecurities every day. At the same time, we have 130 billion pounds of food that we waste every year.*
Don’t believe it? Precisely the reaction Clifton Lyles, founder of Fund a Fridge, experiences as he builds awareness of his new venture in California’s Bay Area, and across the country. Coming from a background in the culinary world, Lyles couldn’t understand why this was happening either. “I’ve been able to travel around the world as a corporate chef and eat great food. I have seen it made but also seen it wasted, I never felt the two should exist at the same time.”
Thus, Fund a Fridge was born – an app that combines innovation, technology and community to solve the paradox of food insecurities and food wastage through a connected network of refrigerators located in community centers across the country, stocked with prepared food from restaurants and other donors, and available and accessible to those who need it.
The concept itself isn’t a novelty. Lyles heard of similar programs in Europe and is learning from one of the more successful programs in Germany to ensure his efforts in the US bear fruit. “We are creating a platform where any and every one who is going to donate food has the opportunity to do that. The focus is on prepared food because that tends to be missed in the whole process, it usually has nowhere to go to other than a couple of soup kitchens and such,” he says.
Most people though are surprised a concept like Fund a Fridge does not already exist – it seems too simple a solution to not have been implemented yet. He connected with community centers in West Oakland, Calif., to get started but also reached out to several health departments across the country to ensure he was developing a program they deemed up to par for it to exist in different cities. Many schools and churches showed interest, but there were factions hesitant to embrace this idea, mostly because they didn’t know much about it.
As a result, there has been an education curve, explaining how the process works and all the aspects involved. Lyles clarifies, “Other programs that started setting up refrigerators and donating food got shut down because they didn’t work with the local government and health department. So that was the first thing we did, we went to the health department and initially got pushback from some. But we did a lot of research and legwork, and people started to see that this makes sense.”
While the base level technology for the app has been built, Lyles has a Kickstarter campaign to build it out to full functionality (projected for mid-October), establish the network of refrigerators and retrofit them with security cameras, locks and temperature gauges, and have local artists decorate them before installing in different communities. The campaign launches the second week of July for one month to raise $25000.
Lyles is optimistic about its success. “This is a great opportunity to solve an issue that we as a society are missing. The need is so great that we are filling a void we see in the industry that is not being addressed very well right now.”