It is no secret that America has a hunger problem — according to Move for Hunger, a program that picks up unwanted, non-perishable food items from those who are moving and delivers them to food pantries, “one in six Americans live on incomes that put them at risk for hunger,” with over 14 million American children relying on food banks for assistance. This is the exact problem that Komal Ahmad seeks to remedy with something as tiny as a smartphone app.
According to Women in the World, an affiliate of The New York Times, Ahmad is the founder and CEO of Copia, an “online platform that connects businesses with leftover food to local organizations that can distribute that food to people in need.”
Described by Ahmad herself as the “Uber of food donation,”she explained the impetus behind her app, saying that while our society has become accustomed to ordering food from our phones, we can now do something “that’s good for your company, that’s good for your company’s brand, that is good for the community, that’s good for your body and mind, and that makes you feel good too” by donating food through the app.
For her efforts thus far, Ahmad was awarded a $50,000 grant to put towards growing her company at the Feb. 9 Women in the World Salon in Los Angeles, with Toyota official Dionne Colvin-Lovely naming her as one of the Toyota’s “Mothers of Invention.”
Ahmad detaileded her first encounter with real-life hunger while studying at the University of California Berkeley, where she was approached by a homeless man who asked her for money; after taking him out for lunch, she discovered he was an Iraq war veteran. According to Women in the World, Ahmed noticed that “across the street from where Ahmad and the man had eaten lunch, the university’s cafeteria was throwing out thousands of pounds of leftover food. Right then, the dual problems of hunger and food waste struck her.”
But Ahmad’s shock over the dichotomy didn’t render her immobile. Women in the World reports that Ahmad then launched Feeding Forward, “a local service that began with UC Berkeley’s cafeteria in 2011 and has since grown into the tech startup Copia, which has now distributed some 600,000 pounds of food to 720,000 people in need across the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the company.”
As her company expands, Ahmad says she hopes Copia can begin to accommodate a larger variety of needs, including medical supplies. But for now, her app is focusing on solving food problems for all parties involved.
“Everyone wins,” Ahmad said. “We win because we’re feeding hundreds of thousands of people – including veterans, especially, and children and women. And corporations get to reduce the amount of food that they’re wasting. They reduce disposal costs. They get to feed people directly in their community, which is awesome. And we also help our environment.”