$50,000 to Make Potato Salad? Give Your Cash to These Community-Minded Kickstarters Instead

The latest viral hit aside, a lot of good can come from crowdfunding.

(Photos: Urban Aquaponics Greenhouse/Kickstarter, Biólogos y Agricultores/Kickstarter)

Jul 8, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

In our brave new disruptive world, you can get by in a capitalist system by sharing, raising money for your start-up through donations from enthusiastic strangers, and hailing a pink mustache–wearing cab with just a few taps on your smartphone. The Internet is where we live our lives, and in that meritocracy where anyone can get ahead on the power of a good idea, on the merits of personal ability and skill, our lives are only getting better.

That’s one perspective on our tech-enabled present. Then there’s this: Zack Danger Brown of Columbus, Ohio, has raised more than $50,000 on Kickstarter to make potato salad. Not a potato salad–centric food truck, not an underground dinner party that serves postmodern riffs on the picnic classic, not an antihunger food distribution service that passes out free potato salad to homeless people. Nope: just some dude making it for himself. “Basically I'm just making potato salad,” the campaign page reads. “I haven't decided what kind yet.” There isn’t even a video.

Yet the potato salad campaign has gone viral, garnering more than 4,000 backers and far surpassing the initial $10 goal. There are still 24 days before the funding closes.

Don’t get me wrong: Good things have come from crowdfunding, but potato salad is the worst of the Internet. It’s a viral joke like Grumpy Cat is a viral joke, but it’s going to put much more than the median American income—$51,017 as of last September—into Zack Danger Brown’s pocket. For potato salad.

As we’ve seen with recent Kickstarter campaigns for a SNAP-friendly cookbook and monitoring factory farms with drones, crowdfunding can help finance projects that promise to do important things for society. So instead of jumping on the potato salad bandwagon, consider donating to one of these deserving projects instead.

Help Save an Ecuadoran Co-Op From a Devastating Coffee Disease

Rust, or la roya, is a fungal disease that’s become epidemic in South and Central America. With rising temperatures and heavier rainfall because of climate change, the moisture-loving fungus has been able to invade areas where winter weather would have killed it off in the past. What Asociación Agroartesanal de Caficultores Rio Intag, an Ecuadoran co-op, hopes to do with its $2,750 campaign (which is fully funded, with four days to go) is develop a microbial defense against this scourge. If it is able to beat back la roya, it won’t only help keep the price of your coffee down—it will also protect a vital part of the economy in Ecuador and potentially in other terribly poor coffee-producing countries.

Teach the Low-Income Youths of South San Francisco to Farm

Everyone who claims that San Francisco and the tech industry are a meritocracy should be required to visit neighborhoods on the south side of the city, like Hunters Point, where the poverty rate is 40 percent. That’s where the Dish to Dirt after-school program would teach kids how to garden—with plenty of breaks for skateboarding—building both self-reliance and a sense of community. The project is trying to raise $14,000 in the next 40 days.

Bring Food and Fish to Impoverished Areas With Aquaponic Greenhouses

This project goes way beyond teaching a man how to fish—it puts the beautiful loop of raising fish and raising vegetables fed by the nutrients of the fishy wastewater into one portable, customized shipping container. The project's shooting to raise $10,500 in the next 32 days.

Fight Chicago’s Food Deserts—and Create Jobs—With Urban Farms

This Kickstarter, which seeks to raise $50,000 in the next 60-odd hours, promises to turn empty buildings in the Chicagoland area into thriving indoor organic farms, providing food and jobs in economically depressed areas. Organics of Chicago isn’t stopping there—the company plans to offer low-income housing units alongside the indoor farms and will operate a job-training program too.

Forget Potato Salad—Make Salad Sustainable Instead

This North Carolina–based farm has thought a lot about how to grow lettuce—and it's trying to raise $15,000 in the next 21 days to put its ideas into practice. The Salad Box would also repurpose a shipping container as a greenhouse, growing lettuces and microgreens in thick, vertical sheets. There are farmed fish involved in this project too. The Salad Box would operate on solar power and use captured rainwater to irrigate the plants inside—a thoroughly sustainable system.