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Finding a home for ugly food


An app wants food waste to ride off into the sunset.

Food Cowboy connects for-profit food distributors who have truckloads of rejected fresh food — which typically ends up in the trash — with charities and food banks that desperately need that grub.

The problem is rooted in the U.S.’ aesthetic standards for attractive food. Many retailers, wholesalers and food service companies will reject a large and perfectly good shipment of food because a single box or carton is crushed, or fruits and vegetable are simply “ugly.”

“[My brother] is a trucker and from time to time he’d have a shipment that was rejected by the receiver because the eggplants were too dark, the carrots weren’t straight enough or what have you,” Roger Gordon, co-founder of Food Cowboy, told CNBC. “So he’d call me, and I’d go look for a church or a food bank or someone to take it to.”

Finding a charitable organization to take the food on the fly — so the producers of the food can avoid extra transport costs — was a tall order. Truckers typically unload cargo late at night when most nonprofits are closed for the day.

“There are typically 22 pallets on a truck, which is what helps keep food costs low in this country,” Gordon told The New York Times. “But if no one is going to pay the bill for all that, the easiest place to deliver it is a Dumpster.”

This act contributes to a disturbing statistic found by the Natural Resources Defense Council — that Americans trash up to 40 percent of our food supply every year, which is equivalent to $165 billion.

The problem got Gordon’s wheels turning — a platform in which retailers and nonprofits could communicate would certainly help.

And thus, Food Cowboy was born.

The app sends alerts to its current roaster of 400 charities — food banks, large kitchens, shelters and pantries — whenever a rejected shipment needs to be rescued. The app also keeps tabs on details about loading docks, refrigeration and other equipment to help with the whole coordination process, which — believe it or not — is more important than you would think.

“We once had a situation early on where a church at the end of a one-lane road agreed to take a delivery from a 53-foot-plus tractor-trailer,” Gordon told NYT. “They thought the word truck meant something like an F-150.”

There are also perks for everyone involved. Donors get a tax deduction — but pay Food Cowboy a 15 percent commission on the face value of that deduction.

Soon truckers will be able to enjoy “cowboy points” for every donation they drop off. These points can be used for coupons for free food or showers at truck stops. The company is also developing an online system in which truckers can document their mileage while making a donation.

Recipients face no charge whatsoever for the service.

Beginning this fall, Food Cowboy will donate two-thirds of its revenue — or up to $50 million a year — to Food Cowboy Foundation, which will use the funds to help charities cover the costs of retrieving donations, extend their receiving hours and purchase and install coolers at recipients’ locations so food can stay fresh longer.

Most importantly, truckers seem to like to app. Although they have to check with the food distributor before making a donation, having a place to unload the food from their trucks so that can continue on their route and pay less for gas to keep the food refrigerated, is pretty good incentive to use the app.

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Going above and beyond for one

For those who are deaf, it can be difficult to communicate in simple, daily situations. And worse, many of the people they come across day to day can’t communicate with American Sign Language. However, Crystal, a Starbucks barista in Leesburg, Va., wanted to ensure that one of her regular customers, Ibby Peracha, had the same experience as everyone else. So, she took it upon herself to learn sign language so she could communicate with him comfortably. Her efforts — and his gratitude — are inspiring.

So the question turns to you. Have you ever made an effort for just one? It would be different if, say, Crystal’s Starbucks was in the home of a dear school. But she has just one deaf customer. Yet still.

Yet still she made the effort.

What effort do you need to make today for just one? Do it. Live more Awesome.

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Letting others know the difference they’ve made

I admit it. I hate the football culture in America. I hate that football players are held out as something special above the rest of the students in a high school. I hate the culture of injury. I hate the way school budgets get slanted in favor of football over athletics — ever so subtly… or not so subtly. I hate how townspeople are willing to approve tax increases for athletic facilities more than they are for text books or teachers.

What I don’t hate is the role of a good coach in the life of youngsters.

A good coach can make all the difference in a kid’s life. Though I never played football, I played for some good coaches — and some horrific ones — in my days as a baseball player. A good coach, you remember.

Take football coach Larry Gilmer of Russellville Middle School in Alabama. He thought he was going to a simple pep rally, but it was much more. Past and present students had gathered to tell him how much he means to them, and to award him with Dove’s Caring Coach of the Year Award. The impact that this special coach has had on them is evident in their hearts and faces. Coach Gilmer truly understands that at the end of the day the question isn’t, “How many games did you win?” but “How many lives did you change?”

So who has made a difference in your life. Whether it was a coach or a teacher or a parent or another adult mentor, today is the day to let them know. Write them a letter, give them a phone call, drop by for a visit and tell them. Tell them they’ve been Awesome. Do it. Today.

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Coloring outside the lines

We’ve all experienced it, either as a kid or with kids. We go to a restaurant and we’re given crayons to color on a children’s menu. Then we leave.

What happens to the crayons?

What if they could be used for something more.

Take this dad. He cooks — but what he’s cooking up is special crayons for kids. Brian Ware melts down partially used crayons that would otherwise be thrown out and donates his colorful homemade wax logs to kids at local hospitals. They’re given the chance to color — and that helps take away the pain. That’s pretty darn awesome.

What can YOU do with something left over, something extra you’ve been blessed with, to brighten the day of someone who needs it? Do it. Today. Be more Awesome.

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The big and the small

I love how nature is so diverse. Just take animals. Where I live in Florida, we have the biggest birds you can think of… huge sand hill cranes and herons and things of the like. We also have the smallest of the small birds, tiny hummingbirds. We’re all part of a fragile, beautiful ecosystem. And sometimes we need each other.

Take the story of a man, a dog and a hummingbird. When Ed Gernon adopted Rex, a street dog with violent tendencies, he never expected the feral dog to befriend anyone — let alone a hummingbird. But sure enough, one day a tiny, unmoving bundle caught this dog’s attention. Rex wouldn’t move until Ed scooped up this nearly dead hummingbird and nursed it back to health. Today, they’ve all learned from each other: “Hummer” is still living inside their house, and Rex is fully content to share his home with her.

Let me encourage you to talk a walk around your neighborhood today. Pay attention to the diversity of things, the things big and the things small. Realize how they all fit together into one big web of Awesome.

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Life is better together

My church has as one of its core values: “Life is better together.” The meaning is simple: Alone, we can be overcome by the burdens of the world. Think of it like a  single plastic shopping bag. It can hold only so much weight. But double, triple or even quadruple bag those things and you can handle a whole lot more.

That’s what it means to say life is better together. We’re meant to live in community with each other. Real community. Not an artificial, surface community where the rote answer is “good” to the question “How ya’ doing?” Real. Honest. Community. We each have something to give to our communities, whatever those communities may be.

Take these two guys. Two men. One pair of eyes. One pair of arms. And still, these two planted a forest. Together, these residents in a Chinese village have worked for more than 10 years planting trees. Best friends, they’ve transformed a wasteland into a thriving community of trees, all hand-planted with love, care, and the ultimate dedication of these two inseparable friends.

So think about what you have to give to your community. Think about getting into a community if you aren’t in one now. Because life truly is better together.

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Seven rules for making more happiness

Quoting Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis, designer Stefan Sagmeister says, “The conscious mind is this tiny rider on this giant elephant, the unconscious. And the rider thinks that he can tell the elephant what to do, but the elephant really has his own ideas.”

Sagmeister shares his seven rules for seeking joy and happiness on a daily basis in this TED Talk, diving into the importance of our subconscious minds in our decision-making and how being mindful of this can help us understand each decision we make.

You owe it to yourself — and to those you need to be Awesome for — to spend the 10 minutes to watch this.