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The Coolest Apps Started by Our Fellow Bostonians: Food For All

September 26, 2017

Small Business

Mobile

Site Launch

Fun

Boston Innovative Apps


In the fifth installment of our “Coolest Apps” blog series, I spoke with co-founder Sabine Valenga about her app, Food For All

Americans alone waste 38 million tons of food every year; apparently, that’s enough food “to balance a scale with all of the blue whales left in the world, multiplied by 10, stacked on the other side.” And that’s just Americans. Not only is this a tragedy because of all the people in the world who are hungry, but it also means that all the water, energy, labor, and soil nutrients used to grow and transport this food is wasted as well. This is a tragedy that will affect all the generations that come after us.

If the environmental results from food waste aren’t enough to sway you, how about this: I just logged into Food For All and saw a Mexican burrito bowl on sale for $4.00, a Pressed Juice marked down from $10 to $5, and a salad and hot beverage combo, on sale for $4. This is just a sample of the great deals they offer, for food I’d pay full-price for, anyway.

Food For All is trying to combat the food waste problem. Admittedly, there are a lot of organizations that are dealing with this, but as Sabine (who founded the app with David Rodriguez and Victor Carreño) explains when I sit down to talk with her, “the majority of [other companies combating this] are nonprofit organizations. And we are very proud to have come up with a solution that is for-profit, so it is scalable, and at the same time has many positive social and environmental impacts.”

Impressively, the app serves dual (or perhaps triple?) purposes: for those of you on a tight-budget but also too busy to cook, it allows you to order meals-for-pickup from nearby restaurants for a major discount (up to 80% cheaper); for restaurant owners, it offers you the opportunity to make money on food you’d otherwise waste. Finally, the app allows users to make donations to food banks, serving a third purpose. Sabine says, “Part of our mission is to make communication between people who want to donate, and food banks, easier.”

Although the app can benefit anyone, Sabine expects that right now, primary users will be college students (who are both on a tight-budget and up-late, willing to wait until restaurants are closing for great deals), and professionals and families who like to eat out but are on a tight budget.

For restaurant owners who are wary of how time-consuming this sounds, you can relax. Sabine and her co-founders understand that for Food For All to work, they need to make it as easy as possible for restaurant owners: “We build their profile so they don’t have to worry about doing extra work. It’s pretty much a matter of us doing everything, and them selling their extra food.”

Sabine is from Brazil, and her co-founders, David and Victor, are both from Mexico. All three came to the U.S. to obtain their Masters degrees and ended up at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Sabine credits their different backgrounds as reason why Food For All is so multi-functional: “I came at it from an architecture background, so I was interested in eco-system problems in urban areas and initiatives to solve them. I understood the problem of food waste once I came here to the U.S. But, for David… he comes from a family in the hospitality industry, so he grew up seeing food constantly being wasted back in Mexico and understood [already] how huge the problem is.”

Last year, the trio began studying focus groups and business models, but when they began running out of funds, they turned to Kickstarter.

Sabine tells me that their Kickstarter campaign got a lot of media attention, including a shout-out on the Today show, which helped them in two ground-breaking ways: “One, we were able to have funds to develop the app, which we are proud to say means we are a software that is funded by its very own users (something she says is unusual in the start-up industry)… and, second, there were a lot of people who, even though they didn’t back us, subscribed to get access to our app, so we got over 8,000 subscriptions from Kickstarter, which in a way was our own market validation, proving that people actually wanted this.”

Although Food For All began in Boston for largely circumstantial reasons (David was here for his MBA; they began with another start-up, Eventbox, so connections were here), Sabine stresses, “Now, we think it’s one of the best cities we could’ve started this. First, because the start-up ecosystem here is so accessible. It’s very vibrant, there are a lot of events happening quickly, a lot of great people coming to panels and really being present on the scene… and, also, here in Boston we find these people more reachable, so the start-up world is easier for us to get into… it’s intimate, in a way.”

After a pause, she adds, “Also, for a concept like this, you want to be in an environment as diverse as possible, to see who we could relate to and connect with; with so many colleges and universities in the Boston area, it’s a place that really offers this [diversity].”

Sabine is generous and grateful towards Boston and its people. Although she admits that, as a foreign entrepreneur, it can be a challenge to connect with people and break down both language and trust barriers (“it’s something that can be very scary”), she hastens to add, “that can also be good. You’re trying to target the American market, and you get to see it through an unbiased lens, which is very interesting for us as entrepreneurs.”

So what’s in-store for the future of this app? “First, we will establish ourselves firmly in Boston and New York,” Sabine says confidently, mentioning that New York is another ideal location for Food For All because of its density and because so many New Yorkers are used to picking up food on-the-go anyway. “Then, after learning as much as we can from these two cities, we will start strategizing our expansion to other U.S. cities.”

Right now, by using the app, I am cutting down on carbon emissions, saving water resources, and reducing food waste–and spending only $4, as opposed to my average $20, on dinner.

I think, with this app, we all win.

**Have a suggestion for another app/inventor to be featured in this series? Comment below!