By Maritza Martinez
After spending four months in Southeast Asia, Dana Frasz returned to the U.S., a country where more than one in five children don’t know where their next meal will come from. Yet she watched as institutions from colleges to restaurants to farms throw perfectly good food into our landfills. It was a jarring contrast after seeing so much poverty and hunger overseas. Seeing leftover food poured into the trash in her college dining hall sparked Frasz into action.
While at Sarah Lawrence College, Frasz started a food recovery program to reduce waste and provide food to the hungry. By her senior year, forty-five students had joined the effort. Each day the team packaged and transported extra food from the dining halls and local businesses to Part of the Solution, an organization in the Bronx that feeds the hungry.
After she graduated, Frasz spent three years working at Ashoka, a network of social entrepreneurs, where she supported social innovation and discovered how to create sustainable systemic change. Despite national efforts to alleviate hunger and food waste, from her perspective the problem was only getting worse. She knew the field was in need of some innovation. So she set forth to create a food rescue organization, Food Shift. Food Shift goes beyond traditional food recovery and food assistance to create income-generating solutions that feed the hungry and create jobs.
Frasz envisions the creation of a food recovery service sector as an extension of our current waste management system, and as an opportunity to create jobs in the green economy. Businesses have to pay for trash pickup and food recovery could significantly decrease their costs in that area. Food Shift aims to provide a high-quality professional service that would collect and redistribute food at a fraction of the cost of sanitation services.
In addition to this innovative food rescue model, Frasz and her team at Food Shift are developing other revenue-generating models. They are exploring the creation of value-added products and the creation of a market in West Oakland using surplus food. They currently donate food to St. Vincent de Paul and have a program with Oakland Unified School District to recover food from the schools and provide meals to students and their families.