The second Innovation Fund of the retail giant’s Zero Hunger, Zero Waste Foundation focuses on upcycled food solutions

The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation announced its second Innovation Fund open call, inviting eligible innovators with ideas and solutions to prevent food waste to submit an application by 1 April for business support and funding totalling $2.5 million in collective grants.

“The foundation is committed to helping build a more efficient and resilient food system and charitable food system in the US and beyond,” said Denise Osterhues, president of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation.

Osterhues noted that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, the foundation is more determined than ever to direct as much food as possible to its highest purpose: feeding people.

She said: “We can no longer afford to waste surplus food at any level in our food system. For that reason, we are pleased to offer the Innovation Fund’s second open call for proposals that directly support promising new ways to manufacture, process or distribute upcycled consumer food products.”

Upcycled food is the next frontier in recovering and repurposing food that may otherwise go to landfills, encouraging the reintroduction and reuse of food items into the supply chain.

Applicants are invited to submit proposals that promote a business model that requires sourcing surplus food or food byproducts and manufacturing them into new consumer-facing products. 

After this open call, the foundation – in collaboration with Village Capital and the Fund’s advisory committee – will review the applications and select 10 start-ups to join the fund’s second cohort – they will receive $100,000 in upfront seed grant funding, totalling an initial $1 million investment.

The grantees will participate in a virtual workshop focused on investment readiness, technical skill development and networking with a community of investors and mentors in and around the food system.

The second cohort will have exclusive access to the foundation and Village Capital’s leaders and partners, as well as the option to apply for follow-on funding.

Cohort members will each be eligible for an additional $100,000 grant from the Fund based on achieving identified programme milestones. At the end of the six-month milestone development period, two start-ups will be selected by their cohort peers for an opportunity to receive an additional $250,000 in funding.

A champion of circular economy

The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation works with organisation, innovators, and changemakers across the US to address a fundamental absurdity in the food system – food waste.

Sunny Reelhorn Parr, executive director of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, explained: “35% of food produced in the US is thrown away, yet 50 million Americans struggle with hunger every day, including an estimated 17 million children.”

The 2019 cohort of the foundation’s Innovation Fund awarded $1 million to accelerate programmes and solutions developed by start-ups Food Forest, Imperfect Foods, mobius, Replate, Ripe Revival, Seal the Seasons and Winnow.

Parr added: “Now, we’re eager to work with Village Capital to accelerate partnerships with creative thinkers and problem solvers who share our vision of a world where food waste is no longer a reality.”

Kelly Bryan, manager of sustainability practice at Village Capital, concurred. “Village Capital is excited to work with the foundation to identify additional innovators from around the country who are helping reinvent the food system and recover and redistribute surplus food in our communities.”

Date published: 3 March 2021

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