Bringing People Together

USD alumni and students smile widely in front of many boxes of food destined to those in need in Ukraine and Tanzania.

ALUMNI PACKAGE MEALS TO SEND TO UKRAINE AND TANZANIA

It was an unusual sight in the A and B conference rooms of the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice on April 29, 2022: Two young men ran around in hairnets and gloves, stacking 50-pound bags of rice into perfect rows. It might sound like a grueling task, but the pair were smiling from ear to ear — and for a good reason.

USD alumni Austin Hirsh ’19 (BS/BA) and Greg Gibson ’19 (BBA) returned to campus to pack 10,000 meals to send to Ukraine and Tanzania with their business, the 2050 Company, and with the help of the nonprofit The Outreach Program and the University of San Diego.

The 2050 Company started three years ago when Hirsh competed in USD’s 2019 Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC). Not unlike the reality television show Shark Tank, Hirsh and other aspiring entrepreneurs stood in front of an audience in the Kroc IPJ Theatre and pitched their business ideas to an audience. The only catch was their ideas had to address one of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Hirsh pitched an idea called Re:Fresh Smoothies, which took imperfect fruits and vegetables, freeze-dried them and turned them into smoothie packets to address zero waste. Hirsch was one of two teams that advanced to represent USD at the Fowler GSIC Finals that June.

“If I hadn’t won that first round, I’m not sure if the 2050 Company would’ve ever gotten off the ground,” says Hirsh. “I used the seed money I received from the challenge to buy the first vital piece of equipment for the company — a freeze dryer.”

Since then, the 2050 Company has grown significantly. For starters, Hirsh no longer has to freeze-dry produce in his apartment and has outsourced the work. He also moved the company back to his hometown of Seattle, Washington, and contacted Gibson, his college roommate and friend, to join the company as co-founder.

“I was there when the lightbulb went off in Austin’s head for the 2050 Company, but I went my own separate way after graduation to work in corporate finance for about a year and a half,” says Gibson. “When Austin asked me if I wanted to join as co-founder I said, ‘Heck yeah!’ I haven’t looked back since.”

The 2050 Company was picking up steam when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but that didn’t deter Hirsh and Gibson. The pair worked diligently, and by October 2021 they got the idea to do a Kickstarter. Their plan was that for every smoothie packet or pasta box sold, the 2050 Company would work with The Outreach Program to donate one meal to children in Tanzania.

By the time Hirsh and Gibson were ready to start donating meals, the war in Ukraine broke out.

“We got in touch with the founder of The Outreach Program and asked if we could expand our impact,” says Hirsh. “Now, for every smoothie sold, we’re sending one meal to children in Tanzania and sending an additional meal to Ukraine.”

Through their Kickstarter, the 2050 Company got the support of 100 backers who purchased enough smoothies and pasta to gift 5,000 meals. The university then matched that, providing an additional 5,000.

Hirsh and Gibson decided to come back to USD to enlist the help of 80 students and faculty to package the 10,000 meals, comprised of dried rice and beans, ahead of USD’s 2022 Fowler GSIC. Within two hours, the assembly teams packaged every meal and boxed them up to be shipped overseas.

“After two years of not being able to bring people together in person, this feels amazing,” said West Coast Regional Manager of The Outreach Program, Chris Romero. “To see people making connections and packaging food they know is going somewhere else is different than giving. This is doing and giving.”

“It’s really exciting to see a clear impact and to do something to help with this crisis. Everyone has been watching the news unfold and wanting to help. Now, there’s an opportunity to do so,” said Hirsh. — Kelsey Grey ’15 (BA)

 

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