Today, ReFED announced that seven grantees have been selected to receive funding through the first open call of The ReFED Catalytic Grant Fund, an initiative designed to provide nonprofit and for-profit organizations with impact investments to de-risk and scale high-impact solutions to food waste. The grantees have been provided catalytic funding in the form of recoverable and non-recoverable, non-dilutive grants to advance their solutions to consumer food waste.
In the United States, 35% of all food goes unsold or uneaten, the equivalent of 90 billion meals’ worth of food. The impacts of surplus food and food waste on the climate and environment are enormous, since food that is never eaten still requires resources to grow, harvest, transport, cool, and cook or otherwise prepare – even when it ends up being disposed of. ReFED developed the Catalytic Grant Fund as an easy way for capital providers to support solutions that can quickly make an impact in reducing food waste via a pooled financing vehicle. Anchor funding for the Catalytic Grant Fund came from Google and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation.
The focus of the first open call of the Catalytic Grant Fund recognizes that while food loss and waste occur up and down the supply chain, on the whole about 40% of food waste is generated at the residential level. The organizations receiving grants are leading initiatives that aim to enable consumers to actively reduce food waste by making it obvious, affordable, and convenient to do so. They include:
- Transparent Path – Transparent Path is working toward providing inventory traceability across the food supply chain through its existing platform and aims to develop a mobile app that builds consumer capacity to reduce food waste by giving them real-time information on freshness based on data and by reminding them to use purchased food before it spoils.
- Blue Earth Compost - Blue Earth Compost is bringing share tables paired with composting initiatives to Connecticut public schools combined with a food waste reduction classroom curriculum and toolkit to help others replicate the model elsewhere.
- Growing Places Garden Project - Growing Places Garden Project is developing a Fresh Chef Kit program and composting initiative to provide locally sourced and lightly processed produce to SNAP households in North Central Massachusetts by making the kits eligible for the local Healthy Incentive Program.
- Food Cycle Science Corporation - Food Cycle Science (FCS) provides an at-home food waste recycling solution through its state-of-the-art countertop units, giving consumers a convenient, mess- and odor-free option for diverting their food waste from landfill and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. Through partnerships with residents, businesses, and municipalities, FCS helps communities save on waste management costs and reduce food waste and harmful emissions, while creating a nutrient-rich byproduct that can be incorporated into compost and soil.
- Food Shift - Food Shift is developing The Food Shift Kitchen Guide with the aim of maximizing food use for household budgets and shifting consumer mindsets and behaviors to reduce wasted food in homes, schools, restaurants, and grocery stores.
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources - University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources is conducting research to better understand the current level of household food waste reduction knowledge, incentives, and practices of consumers who participate in federally funded nutrition education programs in CA and develop and implement appropriate educational strategies to be shared through the National Extension Foundation with all land-grant universities in the U.S.
- Wisely - The Wisely system is a patent-pending smart food storage container that uses hardware, software, and sensors to track the time and conditions with which perishable foods are stored. The smart-enabled system is completed by an accompanying consumer smartphone app.
This first open call attracted 280 organizations with a wide range of proposals, from targeted research on plate waste reduction in restaurants to prototyping concepts like inventory and meal-planning mobile applications to enhancing existing solutions such as expanding composting services to residents. The total amount of funding requested from these applicants is roughly $99 million, further demonstrating a dire need in the space for catalytic capital that is patient, risk-tolerant, and flexible to allow it to unlock impact that can help achieve national and international goals of cutting food waste by 50% by 2030.
“Grant funding can be particularly catalytic, in that this particular type of capital can support high-potential solutions that are not traditionally appropriate for market-rate investments and also grow a pipeline of investable opportunities by de-risking early-stage market-based solutions,” explained Caroline Vance, Director of Capital, Innovation, & Engagement at ReFED. “A great example of catalytic capital supporting a food waste solution is the $100,000 research grant funding that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided in 2012 to found Apeel, which has grown to be a widely-recognized leader in shelf-life extension, saving 33M pieces of fruit from going to waste at grocery stores in 2021. Our hope is that the ReFED Catalytic Grant Fund can support that same sort of impact.”
“We’re deeply grateful to the team at the ReFED Catalytic Grant Fund for supporting us in our mission to transform the food industry and reduce food waste,” says Eric Weaver, Chief Executive Officer at Transparent Path, one of the selected grantees. “With ReFED at the nexus of the effort to tackle this deeply problematic and systemic issue, we could not ask for a better partner in our mission, and we’re very much looking forward to working with this stellar team!
"The Catalytic Grant Fund is not a typical opportunity,” notes Ayn Yeagle, Executive Director of Growing Places Garden Project, another selected grantee. “ReFED’s call to action inspires tailored and innovative approaches that change the way food is consumed and disposed of by introducing equitable models that challenge our existing food system’s structures. At Growing Places, ReFED funding supports the development of the Fresh Chef Kit model to increase produce consumption and reduce its waste, with a focus on food insecure communities."
In addition to providing funding, ReFED has committed to providing the grantees of the Catalytic Grant Fund with a range of non-financial support, including technical assistance, networking opportunities, inclusion in ReFED funder communications, and more. ReFED also aims to offer support to all applicants to the Catalytic Grant Fund in their pursuit of other funding opportunities.
“With our extensive data and knowledge on food waste reduction coupled with our vast network of stakeholders who are part of our member-based initiatives like the Food Waste Action Network and Food Waste Funder Circle, ReFED is uniquely positioned to provide truly holistic support to the grantees in non-financial ways in addition to providing them with this catalytic funding,” explained Angel Veza, ReFED’s Senior Manager of Capital, Innovation, & Engagement. “We view our work with the grantees as a collaboration and are looking forward to working with them to scale their impact.”
To stay updated on the ReFED Catalytic Grant Fund, click here, and to learn about all seven grantees and the impactful work they’re doing, visit the Grantee Directory. If you’re interested in contributing to the Catalytic Grant Fund, please contact Alexandria Coari, VP of Capital, Innovation & Engagement at ReFED at [email protected].