One Fateful Interaction Inspired This College Student To Fight Hunger In A Big Way
College students often find themselves overwhelmed with juggling new academic experiences, demanding coursework and a budding social life. They often roam from dorm rooms to the dining hall without thinking twice about filling up trays and tossing the leftovers. Komal Ahmad is one college student who didn’t just think twice about the waste of food that occurs in university dining halls, she thought about it long and hard until she devised a way to stop the waste and feed the hungry.
As an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, Ahmad found herself face to face with a homeless man begging for money to buy food. Instead of handing over cash, Ahmad took the man to lunch and listened to him talk about his turn of bad luck after two deployments in Iraq, according to a cNet article.
His story touched her in such a way that prompted the college student to set up a program known as Bare Abundance at UC Berkeley. With Ahmad’s push, the dining halls at the university began donating the excess food from each meal, which would otherwise go to waste, to homeless shelters in the area. Feeding the homeless locally wasn’t enough for Ahmad, though. She soon joined forces with the Food Recovery Network and ultimately at 25, created the nonprofit service Feeding Forward, in which she now serves as CEO.
Feeding Forward is an organization run by young entrepreneurs that connects communities, shelters and organizations that feed the homeless with access to businesses with excess food, according to the Feeding Forward website. The non-profit’s website and mobile application streamlines the process of distributing excess food from businesses to organizations in need. The technology matches homeless shelters with nearby businesses willing to donate food. Drivers then rush to recover and deliver the food, eliminating the waste and serving a purpose for those in need.
Feeding the hungry has become Ahmad’s passion. Worldwide statistics support the need. According to Stop Hunger Now, approximately 805 million people do not have enough to eat throughout the world and one in nine people go to bed in pain from hunger each night. Hunger is the most prominent factor in the stunting of growth, resulting in arrested development of underweight children throughout the world and in the worst cases causing the death of both children and adults.
Geographic areas with high poverty rates often experience higher hunger rates, but the two do not always go hand in hand. Unemployment is a better predictor of hunger than poverty, according to Feeding America, especially when 28 percent of households serviced by Feeding America live above the poverty line established by the federal government. U.S. government data shows that approximately 49 million Americans and 16 million children lived in households struggling with food insecurity in 2014.
The need for food recovery has been urgent since Ahmad first met with the homeless soldier in 2011. Since its launch in 2013, Feeding Forward has recovered and distributed more than 684,000 pounds of food to the homeless. As a result, her efforts and the efforts of volunteers for Feeding Forward have fed more than 570,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area.
Hunger is not a new epidemic, nor is the need for food recovery. Food waste has been rampant for decades. Ahmad took the initiative as a young undergraduate to eliminate waste and redirect it to those in need. Her efforts have saved lives, fed undernourished children and adults, and brought awareness to hunger and homelessness in the California area. Efforts to expand awareness worldwide are still needed. You can do your part by supporting the Hunger Site.