Aspiring Entrepreneurs Aid Efforts to Feed New Yorkers in Need

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In a city of unparalleled abundance, there is food aplenty for the hungry. Getting it to the most desperate New Yorkers, however, is another story.

Enter a Gabelli School of Business class taught by Christine Janssen.

Janssen, Ph.D., was so impressed with a company, Transfernation, that she offered last summer to have her Exploring Entrepreneurship class help it expand into the Bronx.

Transfernation is a startup nonprofit that serves as an intermediary between nine corporations and dozens of one-off events, and five Manhattan homeless shelters. The company is similar to City Harvest, except it leverages technology to coordinate the pickup of food from corporate luncheons, galas, and conferences.

Hannah Dehradunwala addressing Christine Janssen’s class at the Rose Hill campus.

Janssen, a clinical assistant professor of management systems and director of entrepreneurship at the Gabelli School, had previously invited Andra Tomsa, FCRH ’08, GSAS ’12, the founder of SPARE, which raises money for food banks, to her class.

As part of Fordham’s commitment as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus, she’s always looking to partner with entrepreneurs who are just getting started. This semester, her class is working with Cascada Dental Spa in Harlem.

“I love when people have goals beyond just making a buck. Whenever I can find folks who are social entrepreneurs, I love to bring them in,” she said.

Janssen split her class into five teams—to spearhead social media, look for corporate partners, look for groups to donate, recruit volunteers, and to design an official launch of Transfernation in the Bronx.

Danielle Gallagher, a junior new media and digital design major at Fordham College at Rose Hill who was part of the social media team, said working on behalf of Transfernation was one of the most unique experiences she’s had at Fordham.

“It was great to work through the unexpected twists and turns of everything. You really have to communicate with all the teams to make sure everything goes smoothly,” she said. “It’s something you can put on your resume and feel proud of yourself for doing.”

Transfernation was founded in 2014 by two students at New York University. Co-founder Hannah Dehradunwala said the company was initially focused on person-to-person food sharing, with the long-term goal of expanding to corporate clients/events. They quickly realized that collecting in bulk was the only feasible way to serve food shelter programs.

“Corporate/event food was a way for us to ensure and maintain a high quality standards for the food,” she said, noting that Transfernation drivers are required to pick up food within an hour of donation and then deliver immediately, to ensure it is fresh when redistributed.

The Fordham team established a preliminary partnership between Aramark, Fordham’s food service provider, and Bronx-based food kitchen and shelter Part of the Solution (POTS). It put together a list of students willing to transport the food to POTS’ Webster Avenue location, either by car or cart.

Dehradunwala said they’re transitioning over to an app that will be similar to Uber and Lyft, where corporate caterers and event planners can request a food pickup. The company can then claim the cost of the donated food as a charitable donation.

She said she is recruiting student drivers now, and expects deliveries in the Bronx to begin in early February or early March.

“We want this to be something that people can factor into their everyday schedules and not have to schedule large amounts of time for,” she said. “If you’re coming home from work, on a lunch break, or have time in between classes, you can help out.”

For Janssen, partnerships like those with Transfernation are an opportunity for students to learn that entrepreneurship is by definition taking risks and dealing with ambiguity.

“More often than not when they ask me how to do something or what the ‘right’ answer is, I tell them, ‘You’re dealing with a lot of unknowns. Get out there and talk to people and do your research,’” she said.

“I think one of the best ways to learn is through self-discovery.”

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