But a startup called Goodr has combined charity, innovation, and a market-based solution to get the rare triple win: Do good for others, find a great actual use for technology, and make money in the process of keeping customers happy.
Goodr has been working on some high-profile partnerships. One of the company's clients is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. And there's a new sponsorship by Hormel Food's Dinty Moore's brand.
"What we're leaning into is the opportunity for us to partner and get food to those in need," said Sarah Johnson, brand manager for Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Mary Kitchen Hash.
What Goodr does is to make it easier for companies to reduce food waste by giving it to those in need. That isn't a new concept. Food pantries have been doing that for years, getting donations from restaurants and food companies.
But Goodr isn't a charity. Instead, it operates as a for-profit. As founder and CEO Jasmine Crowe told me, "We charge the businesses very much in the way a waste management company does." Volume and number of trips determines charges.
Except, instead of bringing the food to an incinerator or dump, anything usable and not expired is sorted out and brought to charities like food pantries. That offers a few advantages to food businesses.
One is that rather than paying a fee and getting nothing more, because the donor company already deducted the cost of materials, the food is seen now as a charitable gift. "They get to write off up to 50% of the fair value of the food at the time of the donation," Crowe said. So long as Goodr's prices are comparable to those of waste management companies, there is a built-in financial incentive to work with Crowe's business.
Then there's the use of blockchain. The technology is a form of distributed database in which every transaction is tacked onto the end of a ledger. Each party has a copy of the ledger, which uses cryptographic signatures to ensure the integrity of the data.
When the food is picked up, there's a transaction using a proprietary app. When it arrives at Goodr's facilities, where it's checked for accuracy of count and condition, another record gets added. There's another addition when Goodr brings the food to a charity. "We literally have this bullet proof chain of custody," Crowe said. And that means a great record for any tax authorities.
The app and back-office systems provide other services, like keeping track of donations and calculating the tax value. But analysis of the data can also show a company how waste varies over time and whether there are any patterns, critical to a business in the industry.
Crowe is already considering additional services, like taking food no longer suitable for human consumption and sending it for processing as compost or animal feed. And she's eying expansion from the Atlanta market, where she's based, to other parts of the country.
This is innovation at its best, providing benefits to many while enabling the existence of a new business that adds to the economic life of the community.