Seven Questions with Shayna Harris, Chief Operating Officer of Farmer’s Fridge

From, by Shayna Harris
Seven Questions with Shayna Harris, Chief Operating Officer of Farmer’s Fridge

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Shayna Harris, the Chief Operating Officer of Farmer’s Fridge. Farmer's Fridge is one of the sponsors of the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company’s sustainability efforts?

Shayna Harris (SH): There are three areas of focus:

1) Food Waste: We donate all of our excess salads and snacks to Chicago-based organization Zero Percent, which distributes them amongst food pantries, shelters, and youth programs in Chicago. To date, we have rescued between 1,000 and 1,200 meals per week since we began the partnership. In addition, we compost nearly 2,400 pounds of food scraps per week.

2) Supporting local growers: We currently source from local producers of hydroponic greens and tomatoes in Chicago, and our rotating jar of the month features a local producer as often as we can. We will continue to deepen and expand these types of partnerships, and we look forward to continuing to support local farmers and increasing their share in our jars when we can.

3) Energy efficiency: Our kiosks have a low carbon footprint per square foot compared to a traditional retail or restaurant. Due to their energy efficiency, we count for two LEED-certified points for the buildings that house our fridges.

FT: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?

SH: It is the future! Without a focus on sustainability, we will not have a food business...or sufficient food for the future. We need to protect the soil and land that our food is grown on and the people who cultivate and make that food. We all know that by 2050, we will need to feed nine billion people, and we are also becoming an overwhelmingly urban society. Both of those facts force us to become more and more creative in how resource-efficient food is produced and distributed, and we believe that Farmer's Fridge can play a key role in the transformation of our food system.

FT: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?

SH: Access to healthy, affordable food for all. We are working to optimize the costs of food production in order to demonstrate that fresh food is not only a right but can be made a reality regardless of community or income level. We have some creative projects up our sleeves which will hopefully shift that paradigm. 

FT: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?

SH: As mentioned earlier, we have partnered with Zero Percent to provide almost 75,000 meals to date to Chicagoans in need—food that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. In addition, the Resource Center picks up our compost on a weekly basis, and this has made our team much more conscious of recycling and minimizing waste.

FT: What changes would you like to see from the United States government to support sustainability in the food system?

SH: More investment in creative programs like double SNAP points for low-income communities to support local growers and purchase local produce. Grants to encourage innovation to re-build, re-envision, and re-create the food production and consumption paradigm.

FT: What was a turning point in your company and why?

SH: The turning point for the business was when we reached a critical mass of extremely motivated, highly talented people on our team. Everyone knows that great people attract other great people and do amazing things together. However, seeing this in action is extremely motivating and has done wonders for our business.

FT: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?

SH: We are much more than the Fridge. We invest a great deal of time, energy, and resources into our culinary team to deliver the best food possible. 

We stock each machine every day to ensure the product is as fresh as possible.

Our mantra is "access to healthy food for all." To this end, in addition to selling healthy food, we donate lots of food to those in need around the city of Chicago. 

To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on November 16–17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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