The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
This App Donates Excess Food to New York’s Most Vulnerable
By Andrew McMaster
In some ways, New York is a city of excess. From Midtown's tall skyscrapers to Grand Central's arched ceiling to SoHo's hundreds of shops and boutiques, the city always seems to take things to the next level.
More people, more money, more noise, more entertainment, more food.
But for some, in fact many, New Yorkers, there is often not enough to go around—at least when it comes to the last of those things: food.
The food charity Feeding America estimates that 1 in 8 New York City residents suffer from hunger. For children, that number is 1 in 5.
But one app is trying to change this.
Transfernation, which brands itself as "NYC's first tech-based, on demand food redistribution system," has been making significant strides to tackle the pernicious issue of food insecurity—by taking it online.
Their online platform allows corporate and social institutions to easily donate excess food from large events to local feeding programs.
Global Citizen spoke with Transfernation Co-Founders Hannah Dehradunwala and Samir Goel to see what's new with Transfernation, and how their work is changing communities for the better:
It's been over two years since you last spoke with Global Citizen. How has Transfernation changed over time?
Our mission, of course, is still the same, but we've almost completely changed the way that we operate. Two years ago, we were using volunteers to complete our pickups and a manual system of communicating with them. Our pickups are now completed by paid, independent contractors instead of volunteers, which allows us to partner with existing transportation networks, work outside of the confines of a 9-5 work day, and facilitates our on-demand pickups.
We also launched our app for iOS! The app works like Uber, but for food instead of passengers. Food donors are able to reach our base of contractors in real-time and schedule pickups on-demand and contractors receive push notifications for pickups in their vicinity. It completely removes the middleman and all of the manpower it takes to coordinate logistics.
Has the app succeeded at bringing excess food to more people in need?
The number of people requesting food pickups has spiked since our app was introduced. Many food donors don't want to go through the hassle of having to call or e-mail to schedule pickups. Using the app, it takes less than 5 minutes to send out a pickup request.
The app has helped paid opportunities to do good and reach populations that we could not have reached manually. Many of the individuals completing our pickups on a regular basis are people who have experienced homelessness or major financial setbacks and are actively trying to re-enter the workforce.
The massive amounts of extra food in cities isn't just an opportunity to fuel shelter feeding programs, it's a valuable economic opportunity.
How many people have you been able to feed over the last few years?
This past year Transfernation has seen exponential growth compared to any priors years. Through our new automated system we have rescued more than 165,000 pounds of food in a single year and provided approximately 140,000 meals in 2017. This is more than triple than what we were able to accomplish between 2015 and 2016 combined! Moving forward we to aim to maintain a similar growth rate.
How much do you pay contractors?
Today our independent contractors make between $30 and $45 dollars per hour. Many of our independent contractors or "food rescuers" are people that work at or rely upon the New York City shelter system. Transfernation has become an important source of income for them and empowers them to play a critical role in fixing a problem they've experienced first-hand. As a result, we received one of our favorite nicknames at Crossroads Community Center: the People Who Bring the Good Stuff. In total we work closely with eight local New York City shelters of which three rely entirely upon donations from Transfernation.
What have been some of your biggest challenges to growing, and how have you overcome them?
Every phase of growth comes with an entirely new set of challenges. The upside is that these challenges help us think critically about how we can continue to scale in a financially sound, sustainable way.
We recently transitioned our operations from being entirely manual to be being entirely technology-driven. Our approach was to test the app with a small beta group who were part of Transfernation's core contractor base. We've been testing for about six months and it's given us valuable feedback on what works and what doesn't without risking our entire operation.
Lastly, balancing the logistics of an on-demand pickup service has always been tricky. Because we are currently the only service in NYC that picks up food donations on-demand, we've found that the best way to do it is to partner with existing transportation infrastructures. That way, we can ensure that if a donor requests a pickup, we can be there within the hour to take it to a local shelter.
What's next for Transfernation? Do you plan on expanding even further?
Right now, we're in the process of launching a marketing campaign for our app, building our food donor base and exploring partnerships with existing transportation companies. As we grow our team, we are looking to expand into other cities where the population and business density and shelter networks can support this model—in short, nearly every urban market globally. As short term next destinations, we're looking at Washington DC and Chicago.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.