This 25 Year-Old Has Fed Over 570,000 Homeless People In San Francisco With Excess Food From Corporate Events

June 24, 2015

Feeding Forward CEO, Komal Ahmad, shows off the surplus food collected from the Bite Silicon Valley conference in early June. Leftovers gathered at this event fed more than 4,279 people at eight different shelters and food banks.

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Komal Ahmad/Feeding Forward

The 25 year-old CEO says it all started with one lunch that changed her life.

Ahmad was attending the University of California at Berkeley when a homeless man approached her asking for money to buy food. Instead of giving him cash, Ahmad invited him to have lunch with her. As they ate, he told her his story. He was a soldier recently returned from Iraq and had a bad turn of luck.

It bothered her so much that she decided to do something about it. Within a few months, Ahmad set up a program at Berkeley that allowed the school's dining halls to donate excess food to local homeless shelters. That program then expanded to 140 college campuses across the US in about three years, CNET reports.

Now, she runs her own nonprofit service, Feeding Forward. Here's how it works:

When companies or event planners have surplus food, they tap the Feeding Forward app and provide details of their donation. A driver is dispatched to quickly pick up the leftovers and deliver them to food banks.

"Imagine a football stadium filled to its brim," Ahmad told CNET. "That's how much food goes wasted every single day in America."

Since Feeding Forward launched in 2013, the service, which so far serves only the San Francisco Bay Area, has recovered more than 684,000 pounds of food. That means it's fed more than 570,000 people and diverted more than 3.42 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from landfills.

Moving ahead, Ahmad said she hopes to expand Feeding Forward to cities outside the Bay Area, including Seattle and Boston.

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