How HelloFresh tackles food insecurity through donation programs in the US
In conversation with Pooja Pelham, Social Impact Manager at HelloFresh US.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment and food insecurity soared in the United States. In 2021, over 53 million people turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table. Donating food is not only an important way to give back to the community, but also part of HelloFresh’s strategy to reduce the amount of food waste caused globally. In 2021 HelloFresh globally donated 68% of surplus food to charities, which means in total 10,000 tonnes of food were given to communities in need.
In addition to donating surplus food, we established several impactful programs in many of the communities where we operate.
Our Meals with Meaning program first launched in June 2020 to help address increased levels of food insecurity that were intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative alleviates time and financial burdens by providing recipients in need with ready-to-prepare meal kits. Each kit contains proteins, fresh produce, and ingredients supplied by HelloFresh to make eight nutritious meals at home. Our team draws on the expertise of our charity organizations and volunteers to kit pack our meals and distribute directly into neighborhoods of greatest need. In 2021, HelloFresh US distributed 1.5 million meals, and in 2022, they are aiming to reach 2 million. Pooja Pelham, US Social Impact Manager, shared her insight about how HelloFresh tackles food insecurity through local initiatives.
What is food insecurity?
According to the USDA, food insecurity is when an individual or family lacks consistent nutritious food to lead an active, healthy life. It can transpire from issues such as lack of affordable housing, economic and social disadvantages from systemic racism, health problems that lead to high medical costs, living in rural communities where access to fresh, nutritious food is nearly impossible, or being employed on low wages. At HelloFresh we have created a program called Beyond the Box to advance our mission of changing the way people eat, forever, by targeting a fragmented food system to ensure fresh, nutritious food is available and accessible to those experiencing food insecurity and to anyone in their time of need. This is a multifaceted social impact program that encourages in-kind and monetary donations, seasonal product drives, and employee volunteerism.
How do the HelloFresh donation programs work, and how do you ensure the food reaches those that need it most?
HelloFresh partners with third-party nonprofit organizations, such as food rescue or food banks, to donate our unsold, edible inventory. We know that meaningful change cannot occur on its own, which is why we build strategic charity and local government partnerships for our food donation programs. Many of these trusted partners have developed case management and studies of the people they serve, and can therefore direct food and monetary donations from HelloFresh to the communities that have the greatest need. Distribution models range from home deliveries to mobile markets to mass drive-through distribution events, and each of our partners have been vetted for their capacity and capability to store and distribute perishable, temperature-sensitive products in high quantities once they leave a HelloFresh facility.
The US team celebrating one million meals donated to US military veterans through the program Beyond the Box.
What are some new social impact programs US HelloFresh introduced in 2022?HelloFresh is always seeking new and innovative ways to bring positive impact in the communities where we operate, which is why we introduced 3 new initiatives into the Beyond the Box Program in 2022.
We launched our company’s first ever Community Fresh Market with our GreenChef brand in Denver, Colorado. This open market style will be open monthly to whoever needs it, and with the help of local volunteers, approximately 250 families can pick from a variety of fresh produce, proteins, and dairy items at no cost.
Hunger Matters subpage where Social Impact partnered directly with our Culinary team to develop chef inspired recipes that are simplistic and nutritious for everyone. The page also includes resources such as information on the closest food bank and distribution locations to receive food.
Relaunch of LimeAid, a giving program that provides support to families and individuals facing humanitarian crises, natural disasters, and other states of food insecurity. This program is designed to provide people in need an opportunity to be nominated and selected to receive 12 HelloFresh boxes at no cost. Nominations can be submitted by filling out this form.
How do you track progress and assess the impact of the donation programs?
We track our program metrics through internal data and financial tracking tools. We conduct assessment of quantitative measures of the number of meals and families impacted along with qualitative measures of impact of our donation recipients. Recently, we revamped our Meals with Meaning program by introducing four new recipes into rotation. The revamp was driven by feedback from our partners on how the program was operating and ways to continue to grow and evolve our impact.
In 2021, we received widespread industry recognition for our commitment to combating food insecurity, and were awarded with the Progressive Grocer Impact Award in Food Security and Nutritional Leadership. The Progressive Grocer Impact Awards are designed to recognize outstanding efforts by companies in the food industry in changing lives and impacting communities. We were praised for our surplus food donations, our Meals with Meaning program, and other initiatives such as our educational work with high school children through the @TheTable partnership.
In 2022, HelloFresh was also recognized as a finalist for the Corporate Volunteer Council Impact Corporate Program of the Year for our social impact efforts in the Atlanta, GA community.
How are HelloFresh employees personally helping to tackle food insecurity?
We run an internal social impact platform focused on giving and volunteerism that helps connect employees to their local communities. As part of the giving initiatives, we offer our employees a donation matching program whereby HelloFresh matches the amount donated by our employees to their chosen food charity (from a broad list of charities we support). More than half of our employee donations were directed towards organizations that focus on ending food insecurity in the United States in 2021.
This program enables our employees to embrace and support a cause that they are passionate about, helping to make a real difference in the communities where we each live and work. Hunger tends to be much closer than most of us think and you never know who might be struggling. Our working culture at HelloFresh echoes values of kindness, support, and taking action, and many of our employees feel compelled to support our work in this area.
What do you hope to see in the future regarding HelloFresh’s approach to supporting those facing food insecurity?
As a food company, we have a duty to gain a better understanding of how and why food insecurity and food waste concurrently exist. HelloFresh is leveraging its expertise and scale with collaborative partnerships that uplift people out of food insecurity through a range of initiatives. These include job placements in our fulfillment centers; developing wholesome recipes and nutritional education; providing cost-saving tips through our “neighbors in need” outreach; and identifying opportunities to support home delivery to those who lack transportation and therefore have barriers to easily accessing food.