Could This App Help End World Hunger? These Women Think So
Komal Ahmad launched her food redistribution app, Copia, five years ago. She was inspired to launch the app after meeting a recently discharged Iraqi homeless veteran near the University of California, Berkeley, who hadn't eaten for three days and was waiting for his benefits to kick in.
"Adding insult to his injury," Ahmad said in an interview, "Berkley's dining hall is right across the street, and is throwing away thousands of pounds of food."
"Lack of food is not the issue. It’s a distribution problem," Ahmad said.
Fast forward a few years.
It's the 2017 Golden Globes after-party and actress Freida Pinto watches hors d'oeuvres being passed around the party without anyone reaching for one.
"Everyone was in beautiful, tight corsets, or they were drinking, or it's messy and they don't want to spill — whatever the reason, people weren’t eating the food," Pinto told Women in the World.
That's when a startling realization haunted Pinto about the untouched trays: "I asked, 'Where does this food go?' and no one had an answer. 'I'm like, 'Well, clearly in a trash can.'"
This is the moment Pinto remembered meeting Ahmad at last year's Women in the World Summit and decided to reach out.
Weeks later Copia appeared at the most exclusive parties in Los Angeles: The Vanity Fair Academy Awards after-party, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the Women in Film Party, The New York Times reports.
"Both Komal and I knew," Pinto said, "If you want people to take note, you go to one of the biggest platforms and the biggest awards ceremonies around."
Ahmad's algorithm for Copia made it possible to successfully work the events. It tackled the issue directly by calculating the amounts of excess food given at events and matching it up to real-time needs of local, accessible non-profits. Ahmad said that a professional food handler then acts as a delivery man and alerts Ahmad afterward on how many people were fed.
At last year's New York Summit, she said: "Hunger is the world's dumbest problem, especially in the world's wealthiest country."
The algorithm led to Ahmad winning a $50,000 grant and the 2016 Toyota Mother of Invention honor at last year's Women in the World D.C. Salon.
Los Angeles, The New York Times noted, has the highest homeless population in the country and Ahmad agreed that's why "the city's divide needed bridging, and quickly."
Pinto noted that many people feel a desire to give back or redistribute their leftover food but don’t have the means or knowledge how to.
"The biggest problem is a lack of awareness, and lack of information and education on how one can do this. I feel there has been a missing link, and Copia figured it out."
They note their biggest challenge and success. The biggest challenge: The Independent Spirit Awards. Their biggest success: The Independent Spirit Awards.
"You use your phone to order an Uber, to swipe right, to order food, so why not help feed someone in need?" Ahmad said.
Women in the World's 2017 L.A. Salon was held on Tuesday, March 7.
Photo Credit: Facebook/ Copia