You might remember the incredible Iseult Ward from our ‘Game Changers’ feature in our September issue (many of whom were nominated for an IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Award). Well, the 24 year old FoodCloud Founder and CEO has made TIME’s ‘Next Generation Leaders’ List’.
She joins twelve other inspirational young social entrepreneurs from around the world and is the only Irish person on the list.
Some of the other leaders whose work TIME has acknowledged include Ola Orekunrin who started an air ambulance service in Nigeria and Malaysian Ann Osman, who TIME describes as ‘the world’s first top-tier Mulslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter’.
Closer to home, Dubliner Iseult is also doing some amazing work. With a passion to solve hunger and Ireland’s considerable food wastage problems, Iseult and fellow Trinity College classmate Aoibheann O’Brien created the country’s first food-sharing non-profit company, FoodCloud.
FoodCloud makes the essential connection between many companies in Ireland who find themselves with surplus food and the charities that have the power to deliver it to those who need it.
The idea is simple. Retailers, restaurants and cafes simply download the app for a small fee and from there FoodCloud is able to notify they relevant charities of the extra food they haven’t sold. Retail giants Tesco and Starbucks have already signed up, along with 250 charities nationwide.
We caught up with the inspirational young woman to discuss with her what this TIME accolade means to her, how the average person wastes €700 of food a year and being a CEO at 24…
What inspired you to start FoodCloud?
“When I was in my third year in Trinity I met Aoibheann O’Brien, co-founder of FoodCloud, at an event. We got talking about how much food is wasted and how there was little happening in Ireland to solve this problem. This inspired us both to take action and we began to form a solution that we believed would work in Ireland.
What has been the biggest challenge with FoodCloud?
This is something that has never really been done before in Ireland. There have been many challenges but perhaps the largest has been around food safety and the concerns that both businesses and charities have around donating food and accepting donated product. Most organizations have been very supportive in working with us to overcome these barriers, I think anyone who works closely with food would much rather see it given to people to eat rather than thrown in a bin.
What’s been the highlight of being involved in FoodCloud?
All the amazing people you get to meet on your journey, from entrepreneurs to volunteers in charities, it really makes you realize that there are so many people doing great things across the country!
Have you ever had someone approach you and tell you how much FoodCloud has changed their life/the charity they run?
Some of the charities we work with tell us amazing ways that they have enhanced their services through using donated food. One charity has made savings of €7,000 since signing up just over 6 months ago.
What is your average working day like?
Every-day is different, one day I could be driving across the city visiting businesses that want to donate food, others could be spent in the office working alongside the our amazing team. I think most entrepreneurs say that working in a start-up is a constant rollercoaster… I couldn’t agree with this more.
What was it like to be featured as one of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders?
It is a bit overwhelming but such an amazing opportunity. I think it shows that food waste and food poverty are important global issues. We believe that Ireland, with such a rich heritage in food and agriculture, has the opportunity to become a global leader in solving these problems and that FoodCloud will help to bring about this transition to a more sustainable, less wasteful food system. The feature in TIME has hopefully helped us along this path!
What other causes and charities do you feel passionate about?
I think education is really important. I really admire the work that organisations like An Cosáin in Tallaght do and Liz Waters, their CEO, speaks brilliantly about what she calls a one-generation solution; it takes one generation to lift a family out of poverty and then that poverty never returns.
Where would you love to see FoodCloud go?
It would be great to see FoodCloud flourish in communities across Ireland – where all businesses that would like to donate their food can and all charities that can benefit from donated food have access to it. We would also like to make our solution available to communities internationally that could benefit from the service.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Although I have met so many inspiring people along this journey, I started working on FoodCloud because of my passion for food, so my biggest inspiration would have to be my mam. My passion came from growing up in a household where food was always celebrated and there was over 300 cookery books! I was also never allowed to leave food on my plate!!
What can the average person do to stop food wastage?
Consumers are actually the biggest culprits for wasting food! According to the EPA they waste on average €700 worth of food per year. The EPA has a great website on how to reduce food waste at home – I think every household should take the stop food waste challenge.
What would be your advice to someone looking to set up a not-for-profit organisation?
Make sure you really understand the problem you are trying to solve by talking to as many people as possible.
Check out how you can get involved with Iseult’s brilliant work here.
Hannah Popham @HannahPopham