Atlanta startup Goodr is working to end food waste and hunger

Lutheran team members Alexandria Giles and Leisa Minor at Goodr’s free grocery store in the Lutheran Towers

Photo by Rachel Garbus

If you step off the elevator in the basement of Lutheran Towers, Midtown’s senior living complex, you’ll find what looks like a small New York-style bodega, sans the cat. In fact, it’s a grocery store: a free grocery store stocked with everything from fresh vegetables to laundry detergent, open once a week for Towers residents to do their shopping.

Goodr Atlanta
Goodr’s free grocery store in the Lutheran Towers

Photo by Rachel Garbus

Goodr Atlanta
Goodr’s free grocery store in the Lutheran Towers

Photo by Rachel Garbus

The grocery store, which opened in January, is a new partnership between Lutheran Towers and Goodr, a local startup specializing in sustainable food waste management. Goodr is also a consulting firm that helps large venues like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport find better surplus food solutions and a nutrition program by connecting this surplus food to communities affected by food insecurity.

Goodr is managed by Jasmine Crowe, who started the company from a one-woman venture and runs pop-up restaurants for the homeless in Atlanta. Crowe tells Atlanta that after a video of one of their pop-ups went viral, “people said, This is amazing, who donated all this food? And the truth was, no one was, I just did couponing, matched the price, and cooked all the food myself.” She realized that if she could get the donated food, she could scale the project, and Goodr was born.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, up to 40 percent of America’s food supplies are never eaten, resulting in 133 billion pounds of wasted food. Meanwhile, the USDA estimates that more than 38 million people in the US live in food-insecure households, meaning they don’t have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food.

Goodr’s model is based on the belief that these crises are not only interrelated, but that each can help resolve the others. In a 2019 TEDTalk Crowe gave, she said, “Hunger is not a problem of scarcity; it is a matter of logistics.”

To achieve this, Goodr employs tech wizardry worthy of a startup, with an app for partner companies to schedule surplus grocery pickups and logistics advice to help organizations reduce waste to landfill. The donation of excess food is tax deductible for partner companies, not to mention the superlative dose of PR.

On the other hand, this surplus goes to Goodr’s nutrition programs, including food deliveries and student feeding initiatives. To stock the grocery stores, Goodr is partnering with big brands like Kellogg’s, Pepsi Co. and Amazon to buy discounted groceries and home goods. Fresh produce is often sourced through partnerships with local farmers.

“It brings back dignity and independence,” said Alexandria Giles, Lutheran Tower’s director of support services, as we toured the on-site grocery store. “Many of our residents are aging locally, so being able to walk into a grocery store right where they live is very special.”

When I brought up Giles’ point about the dignity of grocery shopping, Crowe told me that this is a fundamental principle of how Goodr works. “That’s our whole model. It is really important to us to give people the respect they deserve when they are food insecure.”

Aside from no money being exchanged, the experience feels like a regular grocery store: On my last visit, a bakery shelf was filled with bags of English muffins and bagels, while a cooler was stocked with bacon, butter and… for the ultra-hip Silver Set – Almond Milk. Crowe explained that what each grocery store has is different depending on the user: Goodr’s other grocery store in Atlanta is located in a middle school and has more snacks and foods that kids can make themselves, while the Lutheran Towers store has more detergent and sugar-free Food.

A thoughtful touch you won’t find in your average grocery store: a recipe corner with a computer for research, stacks of cookbooks, and vintage-style recipe boxes filled with ideas. Crowe explained, “Seniors still love to cook. I saw a video about a man who started baking at 90. I thought that was so cool! Why not give them different recipes to try?”

Goodr Atlanta
Goodr Founder and CEO Jasmine Crowe (right) with Andrea Carter, Vice President, CSR for the Atlanta Hawks at Goodr’s 5-year anniversary celebration

Photo by Antonio Cole/Park Hill Multimedia

From day one, Lutheran residents were excited about their new grocery store, said Leisa Minor, Lutheran Support Services Manager. “Seeing all of this really brought her to tears,” she said. “Many of these residents have endured a lot.” The majority of residents are on low incomes, with many relying on $15 a month of food stamps to meet their food needs. “That helps a lot,” Minor said.

Goodr, which is celebrating its five year anniversary, is growing rapidly. This year they will build 10-12 new grocery stores, at least half of which will be built through a new partnership with public schools in Denver, Colorado, with more to come in Birmingham and Atlanta.

Earlier this year, the Goodr team celebrated its fifth anniversary and the opening of its new West Midtown headquarters. Reflecting on her performance to date, Crowe said, “I’m just so proud that we’re still here. It’s hard for companies to last this long; The fact that we’re growing gives me a good feeling for what’s next.”

As Goodr expands nationally, Crowe intends to keep her company in the city that helped her start it. “I started feeding people on the streets here in Atlanta. People have supported me 100 percent from the start. It is a happy coincidence to do the work where I started.”