To address both food waste and food insecurity, David Horne ’23 and Joshua Mason ’24 created an app that connects grocery stores with food-based charities. The project won the grand prize at Make-A-Thon, an NC State competition in which students student teams research, design, and prototype innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.
Their app, Mandu, reduces food waste by allowing grocery stores to upload edible inventory that would otherwise be discarded and enabling food charities to recover the food for distribution in the community.
Most of the challenges for the 2021 Make-A-Thon competition related to food insecurity. “I thought a software-based solution could make an impact,” Horne explains. He recruited a team with experience in software development that included his Park mentee Josh Mason ‘24 and fellow NC State students Samantha Gephart and Sam Peach.
“I leveraged my interest in product management to focus our energy on researching the problem,” Horne says. “I identified a critical issue in what I call the ‘food waste supply chain’ — grocery stores often don’t know how to efficiently donate food to food banks or food recovery programs.”
The team analyzed the problems encountered by two user groups, grocery store managers and food recovery partners. “Our solution was an app that connects grocery stores to food recovery programs in the same area. To solve the legal, logistic, and financial pain points of grocery store users, I designed features to provide information about legal protections, calculate financial returns due to tax deductions, and simplify the process of tracking and reporting donatable food,” Horne shares.
“The core feature allows grocery stores to submit food donations in specific quantities as well as detailed pickup instructions. Food banks or recovery partners can see this information on the app and tell the grocery store which foods they want and when they are coming to get the food.”
After Horne sketched out the different app screens for the grocery store user flow, he worked with Mason to design the grocery user side of the app using Justinmind, a free online design software. “I trusted my other two teammates to develop the user flow and app designs for the food recovery partner user side. By building vision, providing guidance, delegating work, and trusting my teammates, we designed and built an interactive app prototype in about ten hours,” Horne says.
“I had a blast developing, designing, building, and pitching our idea, and I continue to be thankful for the opportunities NC State Entrepreneurship provides for me to explore my interests and develop new skills.”
Horne and Mason are part of a growing number of Park Scholars engaged in applying entrepreneurial solutions to reduce food waste. Shraddha Rathod ’18, founder and CEO of Freshspire, created the online platform to connect local food growers with distributors including restaurants and grocery stores to cultivate a network of zero food waste.