Mike Goldblatt is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Copia, a for-profit food waste reduction and recovery company based in San Francisco, CA. The organization’s name is derived from Roman mythology, in which Copia is the goddess of abundance, prosperity, and opportunity.
Established at the beginning of 2016, Copia is on a mission to reduce waste by connecting businesses with excess food to those who need it most. Businesses pay volume-based fees for access to Copia’s waste reduction dashboard and to have Copia drivers pick up and deliver food to local shelters, after-school programs, and other nonprofit organizations. Customers can use Copia’s analytics to reduce waste at the source and access enhanced tax deductions, with full transparency into their environmental and community impact.
Food Tank had the opportunity to ask Mike Goldblatt about Copia’s mission. He discussed their progress to reduce food waste and alleviate hunger.
Food Tank (FT): Why and when was Copia founded?
Mike Goldblatt (MG): Komal Ahmad conceived the idea to repurpose food waste during her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Komal noticed that the majority of the homeless population she encountered lived close to Berkeley’s cafeteria, which threw away thousands of pounds of food. One day, she was approached by a homeless man. Instead of giving him a few bucks, Komal decided to take him out to lunch and found out that he fought in Iraq. She said his benefits hadn’t yet kicked in, he was recently evicted, he had no money or family to fall back on, and worst of all, he had not eaten in three days. Across the street from where they ate lunch, the university’s cafeteria was throwing out unreasonable amounts of leftover food. This realization inspired her to create a sensible solution that could positively impact the 50 million Americans who face hunger every day.
Copia was founded on the idea that those who have are wasting and those who need are starving. In 2011, it started as Feeding Forward, a local service to reduce food waste at UC Berkeley’s cafeteria, and has since grown into the tech startup Copia. The company launched as a for-profit public benefit corporation in January of 2016. Copia’s belief is that food is a fundamental human right. However, businesses throw away millions of pounds of food. Extreme food waste in the presence of extreme hunger is one of the most disturbing, yet solvable, paradoxes of our time. Not to mention, it is environmentally and economically inefficient. Within all of this inefficiency, Copia has tapped into an exciting opportunity and is providing more than 10,000 meals per week to those in need while saving businesses thousands of dollars through reduced waste and enhanced tax deductions.
FT: What are some of Copia’s goals for 2017?
MG: Growth. We learned a great deal in 2016 about the market, our customers, nonprofit recipients, and drivers. Now, we have the foundation—particularly with our technology—to accelerate growth within and beyond the Bay Area. What is unique about Copia and our business model is our growth is beneficial for our partners and the communities in which we operate—more savings for our customers, more food provided to folks in need, more waste diverted from landfills.
FT: How is Copia different from other food recovery organizations?
MG: Copia is the first company founded to reduce food waste and eradicate hunger at scale—we have the only end-to-end waste reduction and recovery solution on the market. With Copia, customers with excess food benefit in three ways: real-time sustainability and environmental metrics, itemized surplus analytics to help reduce waste at the source, and fully automated tax receipts and reporting. Also, our system can track food throughout the system, which means optimized routing of food. This technology further minimizes waste and maximizes savings. Lastly, we are lucky to have a dedicated and brilliant group of venture capital investors supporting our growth, which is certainly unique in the food waste reduction and food recovery sector
FT: Has recruiting food recovery drivers been easy or difficult?
MG: Easier than one might expect. Our drivers are compensated at or above market. More importantly, our drivers are passionate about contributing to Copia’s mission to reduce food waste and feed those in need.
FT: How can businesses and organizations benefit from partnering with your organization?
MG: Businesses work with Copia for many reasons. Partners support the less fortunate in their local communities, minimize surplus through analytics, save money through enhanced tax deductions, and rely on 100-percent safe, guaranteed pickups
Nonprofits work with Copia because they can expect the highest quality food from local businesses, leverage our donation dashboard to plan better and reduce food budgets, and enjoy a no-hassle partnership that delivers consistently.
FT: How did you get involved at Copia?
MG: I joined Copia in the Spring of 2016. I had just finished a four-year stint in management consulting focused on growth strategy and operations in the food industry, specifically food manufacturing, distribution, and grocery retail. I met Komal Ahmad through a mutual friend. She inspired me with Copia’s bold mission to explore an untapped market. We are excited about what lies ahead for Copia particularly given how well our skills complement each other. She excels in branding and marketing, among other skills; I have experience in strategy and operations.