ZeroPercent Uses Communication Tech to Connect Restaurants with Nonprofits Feeding the Hungry


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AR-140629861.jpg&maxw=400Every year we waste billions of tons of food. A large portion of that food never even makes it to a plate. It’s produced, and thrown away. Globally, that adds up to about 1.3 billion tons of food waste per year. So what does that waste look like on a city-by-city, town-by-town basis? Ask Rajesh Karmani (pictured right).

Rajesh saw cafes, bakers and restaurants in Chicago throwing out perfectly good food every day. Meanwhile, nonprofits in the neighborhood were struggling to find enough food and enough funding to feed the hungry. To help the food industry cut down on waste while giving back to a community in need, Rajesh founded ZeroPercent.

ZeroPercent connects food producers with nonprofits dedicated to feeding the needy, so nonprofits can pick up food that would otherwise go to waste. Before a cafe dumps out fresh bagels, pastries and fruit they can’t sell the next day, they send a text to ZeroPercent’s Twilio number. Nonprofits in the ZeroPercent network get a text message with location of the cafe, and a time they need to pick up the food. If they’re up for it, nonprofits can text “YES” to confirm, or “NO” to pass the opportunity on to another nonprofit.

Watch the demo of ZeroPercent below


Rajesh credits the “mission impossible-style” Twilio SMS updates as a primary reason nonprofits and food producers have been so quick to adopt the service. “Text messaging is the perfect interface for this because no matter whether you have a smartphone, a feature phone, android or iOS, there’s no barrier.”  Nonprofits and businesses can manage their food donations and pickups with one text. There’s no coding, syncing, or integration required.

ZeroPercent works in a round-robin style system to ensure that each nonprofit in the network has an equal chance at receiving food donations. For example, if non-profit A is first in line to get an alert when there’s a food donation available,  they’ll be last in the queue the next week and nonprofit B will have first pick.

Since their founding last year, ZeroPercent is expanding out of their home turf in Urbana, IL and into the city. With three Einstein Bagels, seven University Dining Halls and over 50 businesses in their Chicago network, Rajesh hopes the momentum carries them into other states.