Maen Mahfoud, founder and CEO of Replate, uses technology to connect sources of surplus food to nonprofits that can get it into the hands of people in need. Humans waste an immense amount of food because it has been difficult to move surplus produce, meat, and packaged food to places where it can be used before it spoils. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans waste between 30% and 40% of the food produced annually, some due to spoilage in the fields and transportation, but mostly because we buy and don’t use an average of 218.9 lbs. of food per person.
Replate’s approach to food collection is novel because it charges businesses, caterers, and chain restaurants for picking up and distributing leftover food. Replate launched in 2016 and the organization has grown to include a staff of more than 50 people who provide food in cities across the country. Similar programs are operating in Europe and the U.S., and the strategy of charging organizations that produce waste may work for other local recycling and waste reduction challenges.
Replate has recovered 2.7 million lbs. of food and delivered about 2.3 million meals while saving 748 million gallons of water and reducing CO2 emissions. Maen discusses the evolution of Replate, from his early efforts as a solo food rescuer to where the program can be optimized to improve food recovery and distribution while making participation more convenient for donors and recipients. He explains that California’s SB 1383, which requires homes and businesses in the state to compost and route surplus food to those in need, can provide a model for other states that helps divert food waste to beneficial uses. You can learn more at replate.org.