Food Waste is a massive issue. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, about one-third of all food produced worldwide gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When converted to calories, about 25% of all calories produced for consumption is never actually eaten. In the US alone, we waste more than 20 pounds of food per month per person. At the same time, millions go hungry.
Besides huger and wasted dollars, there are other implications from food waste. Water and energy are also needlessly used in wasted food. Agriculture is the largest user of water globally, accounting for 70% of total water use. Globally food production and distribution account for about 30% of total energy consumption. Food waste is also a producer of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The story of food waste is massive with deep implications for everyone on the planet. If we want to find a solution to this global grand challenge, who better to do that than a 12 year-old girl? Meet Kavita Shukla. Well, she’s not 12 anymore, but that’s where her story begins.
When 12 year-old Kavita was visiting her grandmother in India, she mindlessly drank a cup full of tap water. Worried that she would become ill, she told her grandmother who quickly whipped up a concoction of spices. When Kavita felt no ill effects, she immediately became fascinated with the possibilities. Could certain spices inhibit bacterial and fungal growth?
Once she returned to America, she started experimenting in her parent’s garage. She was aware that over a billion people worldwide lack refrigeration or other means to keep food fresh. She wanted to develop a low-cost solution to food waste. Through her experimentation she came up with a botanical extract that prevented food spoilage. By the time she was 17 she held a patent for “impregnated material for the preservation of perishable substances.” From that, Fenugreen FreshPaper was born.
At first, Kavita was sure that she was going to form a non-profit to help preserve food in developing countries. But she struggled for more than a decade to get the idea off of the ground. Finally, in frustration and a bit of desperation, Kavita took her Fenugreen FreshPaper to a local Farmer’s Market where she offered the paper to the local farmers. While explaining the product to some of the farmers, customers started asking if they could buy the paper. Kavita came back the next week and set up a booth for consumers. With a $200 investment, she was quickly sold out. She came back the next week with the same results. Soon word began to spread about Fenugreen FreshPaper.
Today FreshPaper is available in over 35 countries. They are in Whole Foods, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Ace Hardware and a host of independent coops. They also work with large-scale food producers and smaller food banks.
With the organic growth (pun intended) of Fenugreen FreshPaper, they have been able to fund their growth with profit from consumers.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kavita Shukla:
“People kept coming back week after week and telling us how these sheets were making it possible for them to eat more fresh, healthy produce.”
“One thing we’re proud of is the times we were able to say not to opportunities that just seemed so incredible, or to say not yet.”
“I look back to those days when I wanted to start a nonprofit and I think about how small I was thinking.”
“The scale at which we can now do this, because of the tremendous consumer success we’ve had, is much bigger than I ever anticipated.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Fenugreen FreshPaper: http://www.fenugreen.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fenugreen
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/fenugreen
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fenugreen
- Kavita on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KavitaFresh
- eBook: Five Key Traits of Successful Social Entrepreneurs: http://tonyloyd.com/socent
- Try Audible and Receive Two Free Audiobooks: http://tonyloyd.com/books