Monthly Archives: September 2012

Meet Loni

Hi Everyone!

Loni here, Director of Operations for FlashFood, and wife of team member Eric.  Glad you stopped by!

I joined the FlashFood team soon after its inception, as kind of a Jack-of-most-trades (except programming) and sustainability consultant, since I was a student in the School of Sustainability.  Since then, I have pivoted toward a focus on food safety and distribution logistics, drawing on experience with urban food systems, volunteer management, and vulnerable populations to manage our efforts in the field.  My unofficial roles include keeping our programmer fed and helping host late-night team meetings.

Besides recovering food, I also enjoy making food, eating food, feeding people, camping and traveling – above you see Eric and me avoiding moose on a visit to a friend in Anchorage.  As a Minnesota native, I am fascinated by desert ecology, and often hang out just down the road from our Skysong office at the Desert Botanical Garden, where I teach (and learn!) and help run various youth & family programs.

I am excited to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile venture as FlashFood, and can’t wait to see what the coming year will bring for us.  Thanks for checking out our blog, and I hope you’ll come back soon!



September is ALSO Food Safety Month!

With September declared as Hunger Action Month and Food Safety Month, this must be FlashFood’s time of year!  There are many things to consider in the safe transport of perishable food, including avoiding contamination and respecting the appropriate time-temperature safety windows.

Food safety is important in the home as well.  How food-safety-savvy are YOU?  Take the quiz to test your know-how (answers below):

  1. True or False:  After Justin finishes filleting fish, he can use the same cutting board to chop onions.
  2. In the refrigerator, Molly has two shelves free and wants to store raw fish and a fresh vegetable salad.  Which should she put on the top shelf?
  3. Cesar loves making dishes with nuts, but knows that this is a common food allergy.  Which of the following is NOT a common food allergy symptom?
    • Nausea
    • Sneezing
    • Hives or rash
    • Vomiting
  4. At 7 o’clock p.m., Leah sets out a tray of cold cuts and cheeses for her buffet.  Can she leave it out until 10:30?

Interested in learning more about food safety?  Find out more from ServSafe!

Or check out the CDC or FDA websites

Food safety answer key:

  1. False.  Justin should not use the same cutting board for raw fish before vegetables, unless he sanitizes it in between.  Many kitchens even have separate cutting boards that are designated for certain ingredients like meat or vegetables.
  2. Molly should store the salad on top.  Prepared food, or food that will not be cooked, should always be stored above raw meat, poultry, and seafood to minimize cross-contamination from leakage.
  3. Sneezing is a common allergy symptom, but not for food allergies!  Besides nausea, hives, and vomiting, common food allergy symptoms include wheezing or shortness of breath, diarrhea, swelling of various parts of the body including the face, eyes, hands, or feet, and abdominal pain.  Get help immediately if you suspect a severe allergic reaction to food.
  4. Yes!  As long as the tray is kept below 70 degrees, either with ice or as a product of a cool ambient temperature.  After sitting out for up to 6 hours, even if the temperature of the tray is still less than 70 degrees, its contents should be discarded.


Meet Steven!

Ahoy-hoy! I’m Steven, the lovable scamp and IT director of the FlashFood team.

Above you can see me working very hard with computers. I recently graduated from ASU with a Computer Science degree, I do all of the programming and technical work for the team. I also am the most recent addition joining only in February just when we started to become successful. Coincidence?  Draw your own conclusions.
I joined the team after being ambushed by Eric, who was my former roommate while at his then girlfriend and future wife Loni’s home for dinner. He asked me to join because he knew of my incredible programming abilities and that team team would need additional IT support. I accepted because Loni is an excellent cook and it really is amazing to think that I just might be able to help an uncountable number of people, and inspire others to do the same.
When I’m not working on FlashFood I enjoy travel, board games, solving puzzles, learning more about programming and technology and generally being awesome.
Thanks for your interest in us and your support in completing our mission. It’s because of the support of people like you that I think we have a very good chance of continuing to succeed.

SNAP Awareness Week

As part of Hunger Action Month, this week (9/15-9/21) is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) Awareness Week.  SNAP is the federal program that provides food purchasing assistance for 46 million Americans each month, mainly through food stamps.

To spread awareness of the increasing amount of Arizonans, and Americans, that rely on the SNAP program, board members and staff of the Arizona Community Action Association and Valley of the Sun United Way have taken a pledge to live on the SNAP program for this week. The daily food budget for a SNAP recipient is $4.16 per day and $97 per week for a family of four. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has also taken this pledge, and has been writing a daily blog about his experience. According to Mayor Stanton’s blog, there are 1.1 million Arizonans on SNAP. This is almost  double the amount of recipients in 2007.

Stanton’s blog also pointed out the lack of nutritional options suggested by SNAP for low budget meals. He writes:

“Part of this challenge is to try and eat healthy, not just survive.  I looked at the USDA’s recipe book and tips and there are some good shopping hints, but not all the meals look healthy to me, especially for kids.  One suggested breakfast was orange juice, hash brown potatoes, and biscuits with margarine. Another day suggests OJ, cooked rice cereal and toast. There’s no protein in that meal and the “fruit” is juice- that’s not going to stick with you. Kids have to be well nourished to pay attention in school- I’m concerned about struggling families being able to send their kids to school well-fed and ‘ready to learn.'”

Phoenix ranked as the 34th most food insecure city out of America’s largest 100 metropolitan areas.

How big of a problem is food insecurity in your city or town? How are its citizens in taking action to spread awareness and solve this problem?


E-Myth Conference

As FlashFood was accepted in the the Arizona State University Edson Student Entrepreneurship Accelerator (which we are extremely grateful for!), we receive valuable mentoring from experienced Phoenix entrepreneurs and access to insightful conferences to help us overcome the many challenges that come with starting a business. On Wednesday, Eric and I (this is Jake writing) had the privilege of attending the Arizona chapter of Entrepreneur’s Organization’s (EO) E-myth (E is for entrepreneur) Conference.

In case you are not familiar with E-myth, it is a book written by legendary business consultant, Michael Gerber, who was the keynote for the event. During his talk, Gerber focused on the theme of E-myth, which explores why most small businesses fail and what can be done to prevent them from failing. Drawing on 30 plus years of experience in consulting, Gerber explained that most businesses fail because they lack a system that allows them to run successfully on their own. The overall message (and very simplified) is entrepreneurs should focus on creating a working system that can be duplicated rather than trying to “be” their business, or run it all on their own. Even more simplified, don’t micro-manage! To illustrate his point, he uses the example of the success of McDonald’s, the world’s most successful franchise, with over 35,000 stores worldwide.

This seminar came at a perfect time for us, as we are working hard to perfect our food recovery process in Phoenix and eventually scale nationally, hopefully someday internationally. Gerber’s advice is valuable for every type of business, whether it be for profit or nonprofit,  social entrepreneurship-focused or traditional. So if you are starting a businesses, a club at your university, or a cause you are passionate about, we recommend you read E-myth. We certainly will!

Have any other good examples of successful business systems to share? Have you started your own business and were helped by E-myth? Leave a comment!


Project 7

FlashFood would like to send out a big THANK YOU to Project 7  for sending our team a fantastic care package. The organic coffee, gum, and mints, will help our team stay awake and alert during long meetings and driver shifts!

Project 7 has a great mission: raising money to do good around the world by selling quality products. These include organic Nicaraguan coffee (shown above), whose profits go to feeding the hungry in American communities, and water bottles that are sold in order to raise money for anti-malarial drugs. Their products are sold nationwide at stores such as Target and Walmart, so next time your shopping pick up some Feed the Hungry mints!

Meet Eric!

Hello! My name is Eric, and I am the Executive Director of FlashFood. It is a pleasure to meet you!


The smiling couple above is my wife, Loni, and I at our wedding in August of 2012 (we were married one month Monday!). Loni is also a FlashFood team member, but we didn’t meet in FlashFood – it was Spanish class, in fact – though she was an unofficial consultant to the team before we had even decided to focus on food recovery.

In May, I graduated from ASU with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, and I am currently getting a Master of Science in the same, also from ASU. How did an engineer like me end up on a project like FlashFood? Short answer: an (incredible, perhaps life-changing) elective class. Long answer: a course that asks engineers to use their creative skills to address social problems, coupled with a love for working on teams with sharp, driven people, and a desire to serve others, founded in an upbringing in a home and church environment of community service (and good food!).

When I’m not at the FlashFood office or working on my Master’s thesis, I enjoy hiking, eating Loni’s cuisine, sampling craft microbrews, playing strategy boardgames, and traveling (see my Spain study abroad blog here).

I want to say thank you to everyone who supports our mission. I think FlashFood is a great idea. I believe that, together, we will have a measurable impact on the lives of those living in our communities.

My best regards,


Meet Mary Hannah


Hi there! My name is Mary Hannah Smith, and I’m the Director of Sustainability initiatives for FlashFood!

I’ve been travelling the world for the past eight months and recently returned to Tempe, only to be amazed at all of the incredible accomplishments that the rest of the FlashFood team have been able to achieve while I was gone. More specifically, I spent last spring semester in Dakar, Senegal, studying French and learning Wolof. Here I am in the back of a pickup truck (I’m the one in the huge and sunglasses, holding a camera), preparing for a very uncomfortable 70km drive through the Sahel, to reach the Great Green Wall. Senegal was a great experience, except for the malaria, which I know is not incredibly descriptive but it would be impossible to describe all of my feelings about that trip in one blog post. Unfortunately, I had to leave Dakar in late May, so I could attend a summer program in Bangkok, Thailand (which meant that I only spent 36 hours in Phoenix). In Thailand, I studied urban planning and sustainability, and was fortunate enough to earn an internship at DASTA, which stands for Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism. I loved my work and my co-workers, and was very sad to have to go home. If you are still curious about my experiences in Thailand and Senegal, please visit my travel blog.

I am happy to be back in Phoenix, but not so happy to be back in school. I have two more semesters left at ASU before I earn a B.S. in Sustainability, and a B.A. in Global Studies. Graduating should be pretty neat, but I’m not sure if I’ll survive writing my senior thesis!

Anyways, I’m so excited to be back with the FlashFood team and am hoping to help out as much as I can this semester. Since our project is still getting off the ground, we’d love to get your feedback (comments, criticisms, suggestions, ramblings, etc) on FlashFood and on food waste in general, so please send us your thoughts either here, through email, or via any of our social media outlets.

Thanks for reading,


September is Hunger Action Month

Hello Flash-Foodies, it’s that time of year again, and Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger relief charity, is back in action leading the fight against hunger in the United States. As you all know, hunger is serious problem in America. Check out this video as a reminder of the struggles that millions of America’s families face:

Although this video is a bit of a downer, there are a lot of ways that you can help take action against hunger this month.

Visit the Hunger Action Month site to find your nearest food bank, make a pledge, or share facts about hunger on social media.

It can be hard for most people to break away from busy schedules to volunteer or afford monetary donations. Here are some other ways you can help the cause:

  • Share a hunger fact with your friend
  • Show your support for Feeding America on Facebook and Twitter
  • Wear orange Thursday Sept. 6 (and the rest of the month!)
  • Here is a list of more ways you can help!

What creative ways are you fighting hunger this month? Post a comment and let us know!


“Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”

In the past few years, many environmental and sustainability organizations have drawn attention to the fact that global food production is a highly resource intensive cycle, and that much can be done to improve the sustainability of this cycle (i.e. composting, meatless Mondays, going completely vegan, buying organic product, etc.) However, little attention has been paid to the fact that 40% of the food produced in the US ends up in the landfill, a statistic that has risen by 50% in the past 40 years. Although the USDA released a report in 1997 on food loss in America, few studies have been conducted since. Last month, the National Resource Defense Council published a new report entitled “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”, which highlights how much, and in what ways, food is wasted at each step of the food supply chain. Some important points raised by the paper include:

  • A significant amount of food is wasted at every stage of the food supply chain, so a plan to reduced national food waste needs to be fairly comprehensive. Production, Post-Harvest, Handling and Storage, Processing and Packaging, Distribution and Retail, as well as Consumer-level food losses all need to be addressed.
  • American families throw out approximately 25% of all the food that they buy. This is due to a number of factors including undervaluing food (it’s cheap and readily available for most people), spoilage, as well as impulse and bulk purchases. For the average household of four, this means $1,350 to $2,275 are wasted each year due to unused groceries.
  • Sell by and use by dates are NOT federally regulated (except for certain baby foods), and do not indicated food safety. These labels are merely manufacturers’ suggestions for “peak quality”, but confusion over these labels has contributed 20% of avoidable food waste.

The NRDC’s report also provides a number of recommendations on waste reduction for policy makers and consumers. Here are our favorites:

  • Support and enable food recovery especially through stronger tax incentives for food donations, which would make it profitable for restaurants, processing factories, retail outlets, and farmers, to redirect the food away from the landfill and onto someone’s plate.
  • Revise quality and aesthetic standards at each level of the supply chain to ensure that perfectly good produce does not go to waste simply because it isn’t pretty enough. This can be done by finding other outlets for unwanted food such as discount grocery stores, or separate product lines for imperfect produce.
  • Promote flexible menus at restaurants that “use specials to flush out inventory, limit menu choices [which can limit the number of ingredients necessary for the restaurant to stock], planning for food re-purposing, and avoiding large buffets [where unused food cannot be recovered].”

Here at FlashFood, we hope that this report will draw attention to the huge missed opportunity (for sustainability and anti-hunger initiatives) that is national food waste. Follow this link to the full report.

What do you think is the biggest issue contributing to waste within the food supply chain? Do you think the NRDC’s recommendations are feasible?

–Mary Hannah