A Conversation with Jasmine Crowe
Black Celebrity Giving | Using Technology and Philanthropy to Fight America’s Hunger Crisis
Contributor: Yvonne Durant
“They use Goodr similar to how one would use Uber but in this case it’s to request pick-ups of surplus food and redirect it to communities in need. Through Goodr, our clients know how much food they’re wasting. They get to see who’s receiving the food and the impact they’re making on the environment. They also receive tax deductions. Over 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste. And because of us, a lot of people are eating. Nothing’s better than that.”
More than 40 million Americans are living below the poverty line. This is despite news that the Dow Jones hit a record high in early 2018, an average of 200,000 jobs are being added monthly, and new tax cuts are enabling big businesses to give back to their employees and communities. Jasmine Crowe has seen how poverty and hunger negatively affect both complete strangers and close friends. As the founder of Black Celebrity Giving, she hopes to shine a national spotlight on socioeconomic challenges like poverty, food waste, and hunger, and ultimately foster a level of change that reduces their prevalence. Her philanthropic institution has spawned several additional campaigns and initiatives including Sunday Soul, a feeding initiative that has served over 80,000 homeless people and senior citizens, and Goodr, a software platform that helps redirect surplus food to underserved communities.
Tell us about Black Celebrity Giving.
JC: I founded BCG in 2011. I was working with athletes and they were doing a lot of good things in communities but no one in the media was reporting on their deeds. The only time it seemed like they got any media is when they got into trouble. I started covering them on the blog. Also, BCG has collected and donated more than three million items to worldwide causes and has hosted activations in 20 cities in America, the UK, and Haiti.
And Sunday Soul came out of Black Celebrity Giving?
JC: I saw all the good they were doing and came up with the idea of Sunday Soul in 2013. I was further inspired to do something because I had friends who were affected by hunger; one broke down to me in tears and told me she didn’t have food for her children.
For Sunday Soul, there were no sponsors; it was purely a volunteer effort. I was buying the food, couponing, looking through circulars, cooking the food, and setting up for the dinner. This usually took 24 to 36 hours. We’ve fed over 80,000 people through this program.
What is Change Makers?
JC: It’s now off the air but it was a half-hour docuseries that I created and produced. It premiered on Magic Johnson’s network Aspire TV. We profiled celebrities and how they used their star power to impact social change.
In your TED Talk, you talked about using technology to solve the problem of food waste and hunger. Is it an app?
JC: It’s a software program called Goodr. It’s a blockchain-enabled mobile and web platform that allows our clients – restaurants, hotels, convention centers and even the world’s busiest airport – to become more sustainable companies. They use Goodr similar to how one would use Uber but in this case it’s to request pick-ups of surplus food and redirect it to communities in need. Through Goodr, our clients know how much food they’re wasting. They get to see who’s receiving the food and the impact they’re making on the environment. They also receive tax deductions. Over 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste. And because of us, a lot of people are eating. Nothing’s better than that. For my team and me, this is the most exciting project because we’re building out a for-profit business, our clients are paying us for a service, and we’re helping people at the same time. There are six of us – we started with nothing. It was tough, but we love what we do. I’ve also learned that technology has the power to do great things.
Who are some of your clients?
JC: Turner Broadcasting, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Andreotti Indoor Carting and Games. We’re concentrating on working with clients in Atlanta and getting it right; we plan on expanding in 2018.
Is it a tough sell? It’s a great idea.
JC: Sometimes it can be tough because of the fear factor. Clients are afraid of getting sued if something’s wrong with the food. 80% of the sell is education. We make them aware that there are laws in place to protect them. That’s the problem—there are laws on the books but no one knows about them. But we have clients calling us before we call them. Some don’t want to pay; they don’t realize that they’re paying someone to cart away what they throw out.
You talk about the environment and climate change. Do people get it?
JC: My business clients get it but the community not so much. A lot of my job is to tell that story.
How have all of your good works impacted you personally?
JC: I feel like I have more purpose in life. I wake up every day, and I’m driven by the fact that I have the power to make real change in this world, and I’m thankful for it. I tell others with great ideas to go for it. Many have great ideas but few have the execution. You have to get going toward your goals.
Will hunger in America ever be solved?
JC: We have the ability to solve it; it’s about getting more Americans on board. They’ve become used to food banks. Pantries have been around for 45 years or more – there’s still hunger. Many don’t have access or the transportation to get there. What we do is bring the food to them.
What are the three words that describe you?
JC: Visionary. Giver. Believer.
To learn more about how Jasmine’s journey began, watch her TED talk, “Hunger is not a question of scarcity”.