Innovating to Solve Food Insecurity

Why is Atlanta the innovation capital of the Southeast? 

The podcast series Might Could: Stories of Innovation in the ATL, from The Hatchery, Emory Center for Innovation, seeks to answer that question in conversation with innovation thought leaders and disruptors in nonprofits, higher education, and industry who are making Atlanta a city of the future. 

On Friday, October 22, The Hatchery welcomed special guests Andrea Jaron and Deep Kalina to hear how Second Helpings Atlanta is addressing the problem of food insecurity in innovative ways.

Andrea Jaron is the Executive Director of Second Helpings Atlanta, a nonprofit that rescues surplus food and redistributes it to those in need. She previously served as chief development officer for Meals on Wheels Atlanta and leverages her background in development and law to promote the welfare of others.

Deep Kalina is the founder and CEO of ItuitioLabs, an Atlanta-based, full-service agency specializing in product design, development, and performance marketing. With a global team of more than eighty strategists, designers, developers, and marketers, they help businesses create and scale award-winning digital products and applications. Deep is a member of the board of Second Helpings Atlanta.

Second Helpings Atlanta started with three people realizing there was a pattern of surplus food at their synagogue. When those three dug a little deeper, they found a three-sided problem: food insecurity, food surplus, and food waste. One in ten Americans experienced some level of food insecurity in 2020, according to the USDA. Many of those are children. However, eighty billion pounds of food is wasted each year. The problem is not lack of food per se, but the lack of access to affordable, nutritious food.  In other words, food insecurity is largely a question of addressable, logistical challenges.

Motivated by this insight, the team developed a network of volunteers to transport extra food from restaurants, grocery stores, and community centers like theirs to local nonprofits, who could distribute the food to those who needed it.

Jaron has seen this lack of access in her own community. When Second Helpings Atlanta moved to the historic Westside, she drove around to get to know the neighborhood. What didn’t she find? A grocery store.

Kalina noted that the level of food insecurity has been trending down, but it is still pervasive and multi-faceted. Surprisingly, fifty percent of households that say they are food insecure are employed. Low income is as much of an issue as unemployment when it comes to food insecurity.

"There are communities in Atlanta that are really starting to think through the overall experience of living in that place – what every person there needs from birth to death", Jaron mentioned. She has chosen to focus on creating connections in the community to provide the much-needed access to fresh food. 

Demonstrating how responsive innovation can be, Jaron and Kalina described how they pivoted Second Helpings Atlanta’s services during the pandemic. Kalina says incremental innovation helped them solve the new problems they ran into. The nonprofit rented storage space, refrigeration, and trucks to keep things moving. Partnering with Hello Fresh, they started assembling 2000 meal kits every week with a committed fleet of volunteers.

“There are so many people in our city who are committed to making it a wonderful place to live, work, grow, and be,” Jaron said, warmly reflecting on her experience of Atlanta’s innovative community.

You can listen to the podcast here. If you prefer to watch the conversation, you can do so here. To keep up with everything going on at The Hatchery, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.   

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