This profile is part of TakePart’s “Re-Visionaries” series, in which we highlight people who are shaking things up—and making a difference—in their field and community.
Consider this: 40 percent of all of our food is being wasted, but 49 million Americans go to bed hungry every night. This is why Dana Frasz founded Food Shift, a Bay Area–based organization that attempts to bridge the gap between these two problems by finding solutions that address both. TakePart talked to Frasz about her company’s mission and how it works with groups across all levels to alleviate hunger in sustainable ways.
TakePart: What's the concept of Food Shift?
Dana Frasz: What Food Shift does is come up with collaborative and innovative solutions that more effectively recover, redistribute, and process food. We actually have thousands of organizations in the U.S. that are working hard to address hunger, that are doing some kind of food recovery and food distribution. Something about these traditional models of food recovery isn't working, and we need to look at why—and that's what we've done. We've spent the past year doing really in-depth research into the communities where we are, and we identify the multiple challenges that are faced by food recovery efforts. Food Shift amplifies those challenges and amplifies the solutions that would move us in the direction of making this food recovery sector more sustainable, more efficient, and more effective at reducing food waste but also reducing hunger. Those two things in our mind go together. We have to make sure that in a land of such abundance we are adequately distributing our abundance.
TakePart: When and why did you found Food Shift?
Frasz: I saw a lot of food being wasted on my college campus. I'll never forget the day I saw tray after tray of really good food being dumped down the garbage disposal in the night at closing time. So I started a food recovery group on campus. By my senior year, we were recovering food from the dining halls twice a day, and we had 10 local businesses on board from whom we would collect food each evening and drive it into the Bronx to a soup kitchen.
The problem with that model is [that] it wasn't financially sustainable. It wasn't institutionalized. That's when I started to question the all-volunteer charity model and began to ask what a more sustainable, efficient, institutionalized model might look like.
TakePart: How is Food Shift innovative? Can you expand a little bit more?
Frasz: The three categories of groups we work with are governments, businesses, and communities. Last year, we did a program with a grocery store called Andronico's Community Market. We were able to track their waste disposal costs. They were able to save $27,000 a year by donating food.
Part of what makes us innovative is we really dive deep into those complexities, and we really look at these challenges as ecosystem challenges. It helps us to develop ecosystem solutions, and those solutions engage multiple stakeholders at multiple levels.
TakePart: How do you see Food Shift growing? And how will a $5,000 prize help you grow it?
Frasz: This year's a very big year for us. We're hiring an operations director, and shortly thereafter we'll be hiring a chef. We're opening a kitchen called the Alameda Kitchen. We already have several food suppliers lined up and food buyers. We're going to be processing food in this kitchen while training people who are formerly homeless. So a $5,000 contribution would go directly to the kitchen project and directly towards the lives of these individuals.
TakePart: What inspires you to go back to work every day on Food Shift?
Frasz: The number one thing that keeps me going is the people involved. I love working directly with residents who are formerly homeless, who are now in this housing community that we're working with. I love working with the businesses. It's really exciting how many businesses have come around to understanding how important this is.
TakePart: What does the word "Re-Visionary" invoke for you or mean to you?
Frasz: Food Shift has an ability to imagine what is not yet created but what could be possible. That's “Re-Visionary” to me. I think of Food Shift as an artistic organization that sees what other people might not see.
Vote for Frasz to win the $5,000 grand prize for Food Shift. Be sure to vote once a day from March 8 to 22.
This sponsored story is presented in collaboration with Kia.