Visible Connect #TeamTuesday: Meet Food Connect
In 2021, Visible proudly announced the third cohort of our annual Visible Connect Accelerator Program, which supports nonprofit organizations changing their communities using mobile technology. In partnership with Uncharted, Visible Connect awards each nonprofit in the accelerator a $15,000 financial grant and free mobile devices with one year of Visible service. We and Uncharted will work alongside these game-changing entrepreneurs to help them elevate their organizations and connect them with the resources, services, expertise and relationships they need to accelerate their impact. Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to introduce all six of the inspiring nonprofit within our cohort, honing in on how they’re using mobile technology to create meaningful change in our community.
Megha Kulshreshtha is the executive director of Food Connect, a nonprofit helping to bridge the gap between surplus food and hunger through innovation and technology.
Why did you start Food Connect?
I started Food Connect because there was simply too much food going to waste on a daily basis, and so many people in our community were battling hunger and food insecurities.In a society full of so much abundance, it’s disturbing to see that so many are fighting for basic resources like food to survive.
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
Serving the community during the pandemic has validated how flexible and scalable Food Connect’s distribution model is. With vulnerable individuals and families isolated during citywide and regional lockdowns, we expanded our home delivery services and increased site distribution services to meet the new demands of food distribution in a pandemic and post-pandemic world. Not only are we able to help food insecure families directly, but we are also able to empower new partners who had previously served food insecure households and individuals but never streamlined their distribution to make it easy to increase food access.
In 2020, we serviced 20 cities across the country with on-demand logistics and distribution solutions. In the beginning of 2021, we officially launched strategic initiatives throughout the Bay Area in California to help increase food access and provide comprehensive logistics and distribution support for organizations who are serving food insecure families.
The silver lining in the pandemic has been to see so many leaders and organizations step up in a way we’ve never seen before. We are inspired by the people and partners we serve and we look forward to continuing to support these amazing efforts across the country.
What keeps you up at night?
Ultimately our work is meant to create a thriving society; one built of sustainable food systems and practices that empower people. How can people be empowered if their basic needs are not met? These are the issues that keep us up at night! How many voices have we NOT heard from because they went hungry? How many minds have we lost that can contribute to our society because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from? We want to build solutions that set new normals for our society. In a world full of abundance, how do we build solutions that give everyone a fair shot at life’s wonders? We start with making sure their basic needs are met!
How does mobile technology help you achieve your mission?
96% of Americans own a mobile phone and 81% of them own a smartphone. This is an extremely positive indicator as we think about food access and solving for food waste and hunger. By creating thoughtful mobile solutions that bridge the gap between food waste and hunger and increase food access, we can begin to dissolve many of the sticky problems that have festered in our society in order to move towards a more sustainable and resilient food ecosystem. Many of the partners and people we serve have to combat solutions that are oftentimes too high-tech with too many bells and whistles that it only increases the digital divide. While other partners have to fight against too many low-tech solutions that increase workloads unnecessarily. Finding the right balance between mobile tech solutions coupled with thoughtful user experience allows us to start making great headway in solving food waste and hunger.
Is there a success story you can share with us?
We launched an emergency food program for a prominent healthcare organization aimed at feeding food insecure families with children. Over the 13 weeks of the program, we delivered nearly 90,000 pounds of fresh produce to those in need. We were able to support local farms with food purchasing programs while food insecure families could gain access to healthy foods without having to risk safety, and we decreased barriers to food access by supporting home delivery needs. A distribution program that services families facing food insecurity requires a completely different set of logistical constraints that are unlike typical distribution channels. We are proud that we have been able to help create and implement these programs at a high level of service that exceeds existing market solutions.
How is Visible Connect helping to accelerate your organization?
Visible Connect has been an incredible catalyst for infusing amazing advisors, mentors, and strategic direction as we enter a new phase of growth as an organization. It feels great to have an ally who is as passionate about helping others as we are! The Visible Connect team has not been scared to tackle the messy and hard questions that we grapple with as an organization on a daily basis. They have created supportive spaces for us to think through big problems and work hard in meeting us where we are rather than imposing a predefined version of what we should be doing. It is both refreshing and gratifying to be part of such an incredible cohort of solution makers and we are so grateful to be a part of it!