When I first started Foodprint, something that really struck me was how many people were interested in my background and what led me to start Foodprint. And while it felt quite weird (and frankly still does) I’ve realised that my story is Foodprint’s story and people want to hear it. So I thought I’d share it with you here too.
Sustainable eating is something that I’ve been interested in for quite some time. As a teenager, I can remember asking this really simple question - “why do we grow crops to feed to animals and then eat the animals, when we could just eat the crops". And that’s about the time I stopped eating meat, in order to reduce my personal impact on the planet.
I spent my uni summers working as a banquets server in luxury ski resorts in Colorado. This was where I was really confronted with food waste first hand. We would frequently serve buffets where as much food would end up in the bin as on people's plates. I found this totally crazy, but when I questioned it, I was told it was just what we do, and my colleagues didn’t really think much of it. The rule was, we have to have that much food on the buffet so the guests have plenty of choice. But then because it’s been out on a buffet, it must be thrown away for food safety. As staff, who were paid fairly minimally, we weren’t even allowed to take the food home. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve never been one to follow rules.
I ended up having quite a few OE’s and on my last one, I worked for a meal kit company in London as they were really starting to disrupt the UK food scene. It was there that I saw the place that technology plays in the way we source, purchase and consume our food. As a company they marketed themselves as helping reduce food waste, due to you getting the exact right amount of ingredients needed for the recipes. For the most part, I do believe that meal kits are great for reducing food waste in the home. But I was also astounded by the food waste I saw while working there. I really started to notice that food just wasn’t valued the way it should be.
While there, I also had the opportunity to work on a project with one of the founders. The company was in the process of moving from a contract packing and distribution centre to its own custom-built one. They’d done quite a few trials of packing boxes but they really needed to test their systems and their teams. It was decided that 2,500 boxes was the number they needed to pack to test this, but they wouldn’t be able to count on these boxes for that week’s deliveries, just in case something went wrong. So this founder and I were tasked with coming up with a solution. We basically stayed up for 72 hours, packing boxes into train stations and office buildings around our office in Shoreditch to sell to people for as much as they wanted to pay. All of the proceeds were donated to a London food redistribution organisation, The Felix Project. If you’re familiar with the likes of KiwiHarvest or Kaibosh, they operate in a similar fashion. We raised almost £40,000. As a result, the Felix Project were able to invest in a new refrigerated van which meant they were able to transport food across more of London and help feed thousands more people. Talking to the team from the Felix Project throughout this event was really eye-opening - there was so much food across the city they nor anyone else was able to rescue but at the same time huge demand for food parcels and this was long before Covid-19 increased that pressure.
Before coming back to New Zealand, I spent a year living in Stockholm. The Swedish are known for their care of the planet, it’s really just ingrained into their culture, I’d liken it to a kaitiakitanga approach. I was amazed by the room for recycling and rubbish in my apartment building with separate bins for cardboard, three types of glass, multiple plastics, a separate bin for lightbulbs, one for batteries, a cage for broken small appliances, the list goes on. It was such a contrast to the consumer-driven culture I experienced in the UK and while I've always been fairly environmentally focussed, living in Sweden really made me reassess a lot my choices.
While I was in Stockholm, I studied web-development. Now if you’d told the Michal that left Aotearoa in 2015 that that was where she’d end up in a little over two years there’s no way I’d have believed it, but I guess stranger things have happened. I didn’t quite gain the skills to build the Foodprint app, but I did gain enough insight to know how to talk to the team who did. And I guess this was the last part of the puzzle as I returned home not long after the course finished with the plan to make what was then just an idea into a reality. Just under a year later what became Foodprint was in the app stores and here we are.
Every day since, I've been grateful that I get to fill my time with something that I'm so passionate about. So thank you for your part in making my dream my reality.