Chicago startup raises money for excess food donations

By Lena Blietz

For restaurants and shops whose patrons demand the freshest ingredients, there will always be food that goes to waste. That’s where Zero Percent comes in. The Chicago-based startup collects excess food from restaurants across the city to donate to local non-profits.

The company, whose name means zero percent of food should go to waste, will host its first Restaurant Giving Week from Feb. 22-28. The event will help raise money for food transportation costs. Usually the non-profits receiving the food are responsible for picking it up, which can cost from $20-80 a week, depending on the location of the charity and the restaurant, said Anna Jensen, director of growth at Zero Percent.

Donors can visit to give $5 and in return they receive a treat voucher from the participating restaurant of their choice.

With over 20 restaurants participating, the treats range from fresh salad in a jar at Farmer’s Fridge to a doughnut and coffee at the Doughnut Vault to a tap-tasting hour at the Hopewell Brewing Company of Chicago.

The week has a three-part mission, Jensen said. It will help publicize Zero Percent and its website, celebrate the restaurant partners, and highlight a new kind of giving using micro-donations.

Restaurants pay a monthly fee to Zero Percent, which covers the costs of scheduling food pickups, some marketing services and statistical analysis.

Photo at top: Kitchfix is one of the restaurants that donates excess fresh food to Zero Percent. (Lena Blietz/Medill)