I deliver meals to quarantined families in Atlanta. We started with 10 deliveries a night and now we do over 2,500 each week — and it shows the need for a national solution.

A Goodr employee sorting jars of pasta sauce. Courtesy of Goodr
  • Jasmine Crowe is the founder and CEO of Goodr, an Atlanta-based company that fights food waste and food insecurity by picking up surplus foods from local restaurants and stores and delivering them to hungry families.
  • Goodr also opened a drive-through grocery store that allows people in need to shop for fresh produce and other items, free of charge.
  • Crowe’s team has recently been delivering boxes of groceries to people – over 2,500 a week – since the coronavirus pandemic caused mass unemployment and panic food-buying in the US, leaving many with empty wallets and limited access to food.
  • But despite all their efforts, Crowe knows that millions more across the US are still going hungry, and is calling on government leaders for national reform to fix our food-waste problem.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A mother of four sons called me five times in tears one morning in April, explaining that the only food she had left was four hot dogs and a half a box of cereal. Then a senior sent me a video, telling me she was a diabetic and her sugar kept dropping because she doesn’t have enough to eat.

This morning, like every morning, I woke up to messages from more people in dire need of food. Every email reads the same: I was just let go from [insert business name here] and I don’t have enough money to feed myself or my family. I’ve heard from people that worked at colleges, in retail and restaurants, even at banks. These are working people, most of whom have probably never experienced this level of food shortage in their lives.

Worry about the spread of COVID-19 is everywhere. But few are talking about an issue that’s just as important: having enough food to eat.

A family who received a Goodr box. Courtesy of Goodr

Yes, there are school feeding programs and food banks, but many people in urban areas like Atlanta, where Goodr is headquartered, don’t have cars. And now that most parents are home with their kids, they can’t afford the round-trip bus fare. Seniors are told to stay inside, but they need food, and have no way to get it without putting themselves at risk.

While unemployment checks are coming, that money can take up to four months to arrive

A family with their food box, topped with a pizza from Goodr client Papa John’s. Courtesy of Goodr

And although people who receive SNAP will get some extra money – $US100 total – those who don’t already receive food stamps will get nothing. People who believe a one-time payment of $US1,200 is going to do something for these families have no real understanding of the circumstances.

We started with 10 deliveries per night, now we’ve reached over 2,500 each week

Goodr employees with shopping carts of groceries to deliver. Courtesy of Goodr

After over 20 days in action, my team and I have established an efficient system for feeding hungry families here in the greater Atlanta area. We’ve partnered with the Atlanta Public Schools to deliver meals to students, and we’ve sent many weeks worth of groceries to seniors. We started with 10 deliveries per night. Then 25, then 50, 100, 150, 250, and now we are over 2,500 deliveries per week. We’re getting better; some drivers can deliver to eight families in an hour. The team is using the Google ‘paper route’ maps feature, maximizing their routes.

We’re also onboarding out-of-work school bus drivers to help

Goodr workers sorting through fresh produce. Courtesy of Goodr

We serve nearly the same number of families with our drive up pop-up location, which is open Monday through Thursday. This centre enables us to double the number of families we can serve compared to previous weeks. We’re also onboarding out-of-work school bus drivers to help, and are serving about 1,500 seniors weekly.

Our volunteers bring families everything — from chicken noodle soup and formula for infants, to fresh produce and lunch meat

Three siblings with their Goodr grocery box. Courtesy of Goodr

We rely on Google Forms so that families can request specific food items. I’ve found a few grocery stores that allow me to shop at the end of the night by myself. This is how we get this done every night: We take inventory, and go stock up.

I founded Goodr because I wanted to help feed people and knew there is wasted food that could be part of the solution

A Goodr worker bringing food to a senior at her home. Courtesy of Goodr

As a society, we have been treating food insecurity as a problem of scarcity, when it’s really a problem of logistics. The food is available; we just need to get it to the right people.

But even as we deliver more and more food, the number of people in need is growing larger

A Goodr worker sorting through grocery items. Courtesy of Goodr

We’re still recovering food from our clients every day – our clients include major companies and brands like Hormel, Papa John’s, Chick-fil-a, and more than 200 other businesses, but the demands of this time are unique. It’s going to take more food as well as an endless supply of energy to get it to the people that need it most.

42 million people in the US face food insecurity, every single day

A Goodr worker sorting through grocery items. Courtesy of Goodr

The view from the front lines is grim. Researchers predict 80,000 people in the US will die from the virus by July. However, hunger is a problem as serious and as immediate. Before COVID-19, food insecurity was a daily reality for 820+ million people worldwide, 42 million of whom are in the US. The New York Times reported a record of 10 million who sought jobless claims in just the last two weeks, and we know those numbers are rising.

The situation is difficult enough to make anyone break

Goodr workers organising fresh foods. Courtesy of Goodr

I’m a very strong person. But in this situation, it doesn’t matter how strong you are. So many are hurting. When you get enough calls from mums with shaky voices, kids crying in the background because they haven’t had food in days, it breaks you down. I’ve started doing guided meditations with my team because this work is so emotional.

For the families we’re seeing, home is a hard place to be right now

Young recipients of a Goodr box. Courtesy of Goodr

Empty refrigerators. Heavy minds. Lots and lots of worry. If these people – seniors, children, college students – don’t eat, we will not only see hundreds of thousands of people dying from coronavirus, but also many others literally starving to death in the richest country in the world.

The food we deliver makes a world of difference to families the most in need

A mum and her daughter with their Goodr box. Courtesy of Goodr

One mother of three sent us this note: “I really can’t stop crying enough to gather my thoughts on what is the right thing to say. Thank you. Being quarantined with the three crumb snatchers hasn’t been easy. But we have been as safe as we can for ourselves thanks to you. I am raising a slice (of pizza) in your honour.”

But despite all we do, the issue still needs problem-solving on a national level

Goodr workers bagging fresh groceries. Courtesy of Goodr

But even with this gratitude, if the larger social and political forces don’t start problem-solving around food scarcity, there’s going to be health problems that far exceed the damage caused directly by the virus.

Learn more about Goodr on the organisation’s website and Twitter.