SEATTLE — A local business started at the University of Washington is pivoting an existing charitable effort to send meals to Tanzania, to also feed refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Known as one of the world's "breadbaskets," Russia and Ukraine provide 90% of the wheat imported to East Africa, wreaking havoc on the region's food supply, according to a Kickstarter campaign by The 2050.
The 2050 is a Seattle-based business with a goal of "zero food waste by 2050." The business was founded by University of Washington grad Austin Hirsh after he discovered half of fruits and vegetables go uneaten in the US every year.
Hirsh came up with "The 2050 smoothie" which is made from imperfect or discarded produce. The idea won him and his team $25,000 in prize money to start their business.
“In the beginning I was going to the Amazon banana cart personally and taking 800 bananas that they were gonna compost and freeze-drying them myself, grinding them with my mom and testing flavors," explained Hirsh.
The company then expanded into making pasta like plant-based mac and cheese and also began a charitable initiative. The 2050 partnered with The Outreach Program, a nonprofit that has been providing meals to people around the world for nearly 20 years.
For each meal purchased, The Outreach Program would provide a meal to those in need in Tanzania, Hirsh said.
Hirsh and his business partner Greg Gibson were working on their campaign with The Outreach Program for six months when Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.
“I was surprised to learn that Tanzania and Eastern Africa rely heavily on Ukraine and Russia for wheat and grains so the need for food increased in Tanzania and of course, the need skyrocketed in Ukraine," he said.
The company quickly pivoted to donating two meals for every meal purchased, one to Tanzania and the other to Ukraine.
Since March, The Outreach Program has sent three million meals to refugee centers in and around Ukraine. A Kickstarter started by Hirsh is helping double that impact.
"It's kind of helping on both fronts of this big global food shakeup that's happening," Hirsh said.
To contribute to Hirsh's fundraiser, click here.