Kiran Sridhar is not your average 10th grader. When he was just 12 years old, he launched Waste No Food, a non-profit organization that gets leftover food from restaurants, grocery stores and other donors into the hands of the hungry.
As a child, Sridhar volunteered at local charities and was shocked to see the need in his own community. He remembers seeing a line that went all the way across the block packed with people who needed food. "It was filled with people who were very similar to me, but who just, through circumstance, could not guarantee three meals a day," he recalls. Incredibly insightful for his young age, Sridhar explains, "When people can't guarantee that they can eat three meals a day, their whole attention is focused on satisfying their needs. They really can't contribute to their family, to the economy or to society, and they really can't progress."
Touched by this realization and moved by a statistic--one third of all food in California is wasted--Sridhar found the situation to be "inexcusable." He knew he had to help.
Sridhar quickly realized that the biggest challenge standing in the way of getting wasted food to hungry people was logistics. "Waste No Food started with the aim of reducing or eliminating those logistical challenges to allow for food to be donated," explains Sridhar. So, at 12 years old, he did his research. He visited restaurants and charities to learn what their challenges were and how their operations functioned, and finally "created a system which could address those challenges."
Today, the organization boasts 45 food donors, 1,000 volunteers and 20 advisors and has donated approximately 40,000 meals. Now, those childhood memories of lines of people waiting for food have been replaced by thoughts of the children who write to him, thanking him for his work. "I've gotten a couple letters from children that talked about how they are able to focus on school and how they are able to think about going to college or getting some form of higher education," he explains. "That is really inspiring."
The teen credits his background to his success. "What I brought to the table was a fresh perspective," he says. "I was removed from both the food industry and the non-profit industry, so I was in a position where I could step back, really look at the problem and craft an innovative solution."
While Sridhar doesn't yet know which college he wants to attend or what his future career will be, one thing he knows for sure is that he wants to be helping people. "I have ingrained in me the sense that I should give back and make a difference in people's lives."
Check out the slideshow above for more on Sridhar and Waste No More plus shocking statistics on food waste.