- Chicago startup Zero Percent, which coordinates business’ food donation pickups, is launching a crowdfunding platform with proceeds benefiting nonprofits who could use those food donations but have no way to pick them up.
- The company sustains its $60- to $100-a-month operation through the fee paid by the roughly 100 businesses who rely on Zero Percent to pick up their excess food. They include corporate cafeterias, grocery stores, restaurants, and other generators of what would-be high-volume, unused waste.
- The startup moved from an incubator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Chicago in September 2013, significantly expanding its reach at its current location. Now the organization is planning for launches in Nashville and Minneapolis later this year, using crowdfunding in those locations as well. By April 2014, the end of its last funding round, Zero Percent raised $250,000 in investment capital.
Zero Percent is sending out clear messages about charity, the power of community involvement, and recycling and sustainability. The organization is making a tangible impact on Chicago landfills and will soon do the same at Nashville and Minneapolis landfills. Overall the organization has diverted one million pounds of food from landfills since December, according to Raj Karmani, founder and CEO of Zero Percent, as reported in the Chicago Tribune.
Zero Percent is in the food recovery business full time, with 80 nonprofits actively participating in the program and 250 having signed up for the service. But is gaining new momentum with its newest tool —crowdfunding. Diners at participating restaurants can now donate $5 to their chosen charity for a reward; in turn, their contribution funds 15 to 25 meals.
"You first have this element of just the awareness that customers are patronizing places that are doing the right thing," Saunders said. "We’re basically asking the customers to participate in that as a way to really magnify the impact we have."
Farmer’s Fridge, which has 37 food kiosks throughout the Chicago area depends on Zero Percent five days a week, for a monthly fee of $250 — substantially less than what it would pay for other ways to salvage good food, CEO and founder Luke Saunders told Chicago Tribune.