By Paul Wood
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Paul Wood of the News-Gazette sits down with KATHLEEN HU, a University of Illinois student who is heading the technology side of “DIBBS”, a start-up to fight hunger and reduce food waste.
Hu’s web platform connects food retailers to food pantries so that excess food doesn’t go to waste.
Question: Are you graduate students? Did your academic work contribute to this start-up?
Answer: I’m an undergraduate student studying systems engineering. Engineering courses teach solving problems, which is an important skill in a start-up.
Question:How did you get the idea to start the company?
Answer: DIBBS started as an app to sell end-of-the-day food at restaurants to consumers at reduced prices. I got the inspiration for that when a friend introduced to me an app that did something similar while we were living in Paris.
I wanted to bring it back to Champaign because it’s a great idea. As we worked in the food space, we found an alternative market to make a bigger impact and pivoted to the grocery-store/food-agency model.
Question: What inspired you to fight hunger in the community?
Answer: As I was growing up, my mom would take me volunteering, and helping others became an instilled priority for me. Food is a basic human necessity, and it doesn’t make sense that so much food is wasted at the same time 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure.
Question: How does DIBBS help with this?
Answer: DIBBS connects surplus food at grocery stores to the local food agencies that need it.
Question: What does DIBBS do that nothing else does?
Answer: DIBBS deals predominately with near-shelf-life food and provides a streamlined transaction experience. For grocery stores that already donate their surplus food, the current solution is a pickup from food banks. The food then needs to be distributed again to the agencies that will serve it to the community. Because of the nature of the food we’re dealing with, much of it gets wasted along the way. Each day in transition is important. In addition, we provide transparency in the process. Grocery stores can see where their donation goes and receive impact reports to boost their brand internally and externally.