DC Climathon Tackles Food Waste Problem
By Karen Chen
Planet Forward intern/GWU student
About 40 percent of food in the U.S. is either tossed out or left to rot. This food waste adds up to about $165 billion every year. On June 18, Climate-KIC (Knowledge & Innovation Community), Europe’s main climate innovation initiative, hosted “hackathons” simultaneously in 16 cities around the world. Each of these “climathons” were held with the aim of fostering innovative solutions to sustainability related issues. The inaugural Washington, D.C., Climathon was hosted by Climate-KIC in conjunction with The George Washington University’s Office of Sustainability, School of Business’ Institute for Corporate Responsibility, and GWupstart Social Innovation Lab. This year’s event focused on finding a solution to the food waste problem within the District of Columbia, where 15,000 tons of food are wasted annually.
Over the course of 24 hours, participants broke out into teams, brainstormed new ideas to tackle the food waste problem, and, finally, pitched their solutions to a panel of experts from organizations such as the District Department of the Environment and World Resources Institute.
Participants were encouraged to focus on making viable public-private partnerships that would reduce waste and carbon emissions, producing cost savings, and create new sources of revenue through food waste management. Successful teams had innovations that focused on spurring behavioral change — getting people to go the extra mile and work on minimizing food waste and donating the extra food that they can’t use.
The winning ideas and teams from the D.C. Climathon are:
HealthyDiversion, created by Abhijit Khanna and Matthew Snyder, will be a smartphone application which uses an artificial intelligence system to provide users with an overall health assessment, a personalized nutrition plan, and a strategic push notification system to help shoppers keep track of expiring groceries and connect with local food banks.
Shannon Kennedy and Todd McGarvey proposed a year-round mobile produce service, called Lettuce Move, which seeks to link D.C.’s low-income neighborhoods with local supermarkets by bringing in a mobile produce van to increase accessibility in food deserts.
Raw Food Rescue, led by Christina Bowman, Candace Chandra, Harrison Fung, James Ingle, Joseff Kolman, Quinn O’Hanlon & Rohin Daswani, will be a logistics management organization devoted to rescuing and repurposing raw food resources within the D.C. area. By sourcing the commercial sector, partnering with nongovernmental organizations for transportation needs, and connecting the dots for end-user consumers, Raw Food Rescue aims to create jobs in local communities, with target groups including veterans, returning citizens, elderly and disabled individuals.
Frank Fritz III, Celeste Aguzino, and Sabrina Freese showcased the pilot program of The Washington ComPost, which initially was launched last academic year at GW’s Hensley Hall. These team members hope to expand their residential composting initiative to D.C. public schools and other universities in the metro area.
The four winning teams will each receive up to a $500 grant and assistance from the GW Office of Sustainability and the D.C. city government. They now will enter a coaching trajectory to further develop and implement their idea. One of the four teams selected at the event will travel to Paris for a global showcase of Climathon initiatives. The showcase will take place in December at the same time as the United Nation’s COP21 (Conference of Parties) Climate Conference. There, the winning team will have the opportunity to showcase their developed business model/prototype and seek investment and further support.
(All photos by Karen Chen/GWU.)