Zero Percent Turns to Crowdfunding to Prevent Food Waste

  • 2016-03-09
  • Chicago Tribune

Distributing food to the needy is often more problematic than supplying it in Chicago.

Good food goes to waste at downtown restaurants because nonprofits, many of which are located on the outskirts of the city, don’t have the resources to go pick up leftovers.

So Zero Percent, a startup based at 1871 that coordinates excess food donations and pickups, is launching a new crowdfunding platform to raise money for nonprofits that can’t afford to pay for the gas or workers it takes to pick up food. During its Restaurant Giving Week through Sunday, diners can donate $5 to charity and get a treat in return.

The startup launched at the EnterpriseWorks incubator in the Research Park at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign three years ago and moved to Chicago in September 2013 to go through Impact Engine’s accelerator at 1871. It has four full-time employees, and its reach has stretched far since it moved its platform to town.

About 100 businesses — including corporate cafeterias, grocery stores and restaurants such as Eataly and Hannah’s Bretzel — use Zero Percent’s platform to donate their extra food. Restaurants pay to use Zero Percent, which helps pay for the company’s operations. Raj Karmani, founder and CEO of Zero Percent, said that is typically $60 to $100 per month, depending on the amount of food being donated.