IPA (Give) – A Mobile Application for Distribution of Free Food
“As Mahatma Gandhi once said: The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. I’m an ardent supporter of the SDGs & I have an almost religious zeal for technologies that can impact people’s lives” – explains Ashley Chimhanda, a Software Engineer and founder of IPA.
Ashley says the idea for IPA came to his mind during his time with ENACTUS, while he was studying at the Midlands State University in 2016. As part of the MSU ENACTUS team, he worked on rehabilitating children living on the streets and also together with the team collected food handouts to distribute to the children. At the same time the team also spearheaded a kaylite recycling initiative. It was during one of his many kaylite collecting missions that Ashley realised how much waste food was always thrown away with the kaylites.
“It really struck me that we would always struggle to collect food donations for children living on the streets, yet students on campus were clearly throwing away food. The inequitable distribution of food in our society was glaring”, recalls Ashley.
What if I could change this?
Struck by having to carry over 200kg of food waste from the campus canteen with his team, Ashley began thinking of a way to redistribute food before so much of it landed in campus trash bins. Having teamed up with a fellow student, Ashley pitched his excess food sharing idea in the ENACTUS “One race to end waste” competition.
“Although we only made it to the semi-finals, the competition provided mentorship to further develop our idea. This enabled us to develop a vision for our idea, beyond the competition. And so we decided to continue with it”, says Ashley.
Ashley assembled a team of three, and together they engaged the university canteen to determine just how much food was really going to waste. The trio identified a nearby charity organization which would collect extra food uncooked vegetables and from the canteen before these would go bad. The problem they encountered was that all this was being done manually. The canteen manager would alert the team when there was excess food, and the team had to coordinate delivery logistics with the charity. Given that the team comprised of full time university students, this was highly inefficient.
“We had two main challenges, first, how to develop a digital platform linking the canteen as well as retail outlets to the charity organizations which would then redistribute the excess food and secondly how to make money in order to sustain the initiative” – says Ashley.
After university, the team went their separate ways and the idea has slowly come to a natural death, or has it? Ashley who now works as a software engineer for a mining company, shares that living in a mining community he still witnesses inequitable distribution of food. This has rekindled his passion for reducing food waste by developing a digital platform that links the haves and the have nots.
“I have been working on developing a functional prototype, but because the idea is not yet generating income, it has been difficult to engage other skilled developers to be part of IPA, what I need to learn now is how to turn this idea into a profitable business, with buy in from the key stakeholders in the food industry” – shares Ashley.
Ashley says he plans to expand IPA beyond just a food sharing. He envisions IPA as a retail outlet which uses the digital platform to identify retail outlets with excess food and perishables approaching best before date, which is then collected and sold at a discounted price from a central location.
“’I am driven by the need to eliminate barriers faced by disadvantaged communities in accessing resources be it food, internet, water”, – concludes Ashley.
Photo Credits: Ashley Chimhanda