When working toward tackling a national epidemic, the status quo has to be turned upside down and Goodr — an Atlanta-based food waste startup — thrives on creating tech innovations that disrupts the traditional way of solving hunger.
Last month, CEO Jasmine Crowe and her team opened their first-ever free in-school grocery and clothing store at McNair Middle School in College Park, GA. As previously reported by AfroTech, Goodr teamed up with Gunna, Foot Locker and Reebok for Gunna’s Drip Closet — free of charge for students — for the Atlanta rapper’s childhood school.
The founder isn’t letting up this year just yet when it comes to battling food insecurity. With hopes to pass her mission on to today’s generation and ones to follow, Crowe decided to create and self-publish her first children’s book, “Everybody Eats,” to teach the youth about reducing food waste and fighting hunger.
“I decided to self-publish it,” she told AfroTech. “The one thing that made me self-publish the book is I wanted to use the proceeds to do more of this work that I do. That was the real kind of impetus behind going into the self-publishing route.”
Crowe caught up with AfroTech about the process of the Gunna collaboration, the aftermath of the in-school grocery store’s launch and her vision for her book “Everybody Eats.”
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.
AfroTech: What did that moment of the opening mean to you personally and how have you been processing the feedback?
Jasmine Crowe: It meant the world to me more so than anything because it’s something I’ve been trying to do for a very long time. You see a lot of these companies making massive donations to food banks and you don’t see this kind of work being done. It really showed me that my dreams were really valid. Even though I’ve had these type of dreams for a long time and it took a while for them to happen — it still happened. I’m just really on cloud nine from it.
There’s been both positive and negative feedback, but I’m very grateful for the positive feedback. I think it’s easy for people to say, ‘Those kind of items have empty calories or those are cereals with sugar in them,’ but these are also probably people who have never been hungry and don’t understand what it means to be attending a Title one school where 67 percent of the kids live in poverty. I’m looking past that. At the end of the day, the people we built this store for — the students and the families — are over the moon about it, and that’s really what matters.
AfroTech: What did the process look like of Gunna hopping on board for the collaboration?
Jasmine Crowe: I’ve been working with Gunna since 2018. Before I founded my startup — Goodr — I used to work with celebrities to basically start their nonprofits. My whole goal was to help them better manage their star power. I had been working with him for awhile, and of course, a lot of celebrities still reach out to me around holidays, like back-to-school, and Gunna is someone I just finished working with in February.
We had done a big giveaway foundation in Houston after the winter storms in February. He reached out to me and he says ‘Hey, what can we do for back-to-school?’ I just pitched this to him, I’m like, ‘Listen, I’ve been trying to build this grocery store inside of a school. I think it would be so good if we can make this happen.’ Luckily he was like, ‘I love that, let’s do it.’
It took me about a week or so to come up with the design and the budget, and get it back to him and get his approval, and he said, ‘Cool.’ It was that simple. We built the whole store — from him giving us the go-ahead and us having the idea all within three weeks.
AfroTech: What are a few key takeaways that you’ve learned from and will use to further activate Goodr’s mission of fighting against hunger?
Jasmine Crowe: I learned that this is very necessary. I knew that, but to see it validated was really exciting. I was so sure all the kids were just going to want to get the shoes and clothes, but the first 50 families that shopped with us across the board all requested food. That just let me know that this was so needed. That was something that I learned that the need for food is even greater than I realize that it is at times.
I also learned about the struggles that these kids are having in school and how food really helps them. So many of the teachers [were] coming up to us and saying, ‘I have kids coming in and they don’t even know when they’re going to eat again, and I can hear their stomachs growling in the classroom.’ Just being able to now say, ‘Let me take you to the grocery store and get you something’ is just life-changing for them. I felt like this was something that I knew, but to hear it from the teachers and staff is amazing.
AfroTech: What do you hope to be the trajectory for Goodr after the success of Gunna’s Drip Closet?
Jasmine Crowe: [Goodr] uses technology to solve hunger — that’s our big focus. I think we are taking a radically different approach to how this country solves hunger and food waste. A lot of times people say to me, ‘How is this a business? How can this be profitable?’ But, the main thing is people have to understand that billions of dollars get spent every year on food insecurity and trying to make sure people have access to food. But, it typically only goes to the same organizations.
And what we’re trying to do is come in and kind of disrupt that and say, ‘Listen, we’re getting a lot wrong about solving hunger if we’re always going to give money to the same people. We’re going to keep on having the same results.’ Give Goodr a chance to come in and do what we do, which is innovate and use technology and data to solve this problem at scale. That’s what I’m hoping will continue to happen for us.
AfroTech: What first sparked your new book 'Everybody Eats?'
Jasmine Crowe: It’s an adaptation of my Ted Talk. In 2019, I did a Ted Talk and it’s titled ‘What We’re Getting Wrong in the Fight to End Hunger.’ I talked about my own personal experiences and friends, and family members [who] were actually experiencing food insecurity and what that meant to me to really get involved in this fight. That’s what the book is about. If I don’t solve [hunger], I want to at least be known for someone who really worked until my final day trying to solve it. The one thing I believe I can do is inspire the next generation. That’s why I wanted to write this book — so that kids, like my daughter, would know about this. I want her to try and solve this problem too.
AfroTech: What can we expect from 'Everybody Eats'?
Jasmine Crowe: It’s going to show that hunger affects everybody — all races and ethnicities. And also [I’m] not shying away from the fact that people that look like me are affected at higher rates.
The kids are going to learn a lot. I talk about food waste and its impact on the environment. I put a glossary in there so they know what things like ‘food waste’ means. I show them the laws and I also have lesson plans.
My big goal is that every single teacher in the country gets this because if one in six kids are going hungry, chances are every kid knows a kid that’s going hungry. I hope that more receive it and just get into what we’re trying to do and solve.
Her new book “Everybody Eats” releases on Oct. 26.
To pre-order, click here.