In Ralph Ellison’s classic novel, Invisible Man, he shares the following thoughts on how racism can make individuals (and communities) invisible:
“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in a circus sideshow, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”
Soaring prices at grocery stores and shortages of specific foods due to supply chain issues have provided stark reminders of how food insecurity and food scarcity impact families across the country. These issues have hit some communities especially hard, but an Atlanta-based team began to address these challenges long before they became a talking point for prime time news commentators.
In Atlanta, Jill Wu helps bring solutions to the invisible challenges of food scarcity, as the product manager of GoodrCo. Goodr is an Atlanta startup that fights food insecurity and food waste. Wu and her team work with a network of supporters to feed and empower with community organizing. She leads political engagement for voter turnout in the Asian community and empowers locally by making food and water accessible for all. While some complain about food deserts, Wu does the work to make resources equitable.
Goodr is helmed by Jasmine Crowe, an alumna of North Carolina A&T, a historically black college, and Wu said she was inspired by Crowe's work with feeding homeless individuals. For years, Crowe used her own funds to prepare meals for homeless Atlantans. When Crowe learned that many people assumed she was receiving food donations from restaurants, she recognized the scale of the food waste problem in America and a solution. Crowe eventually turned her philanthropy into a green career. She founded Goodr in 2017, and it has since grown to a full-scale waste management and hunger relief company.
Wu was inspired by Crowe’s efforts and decided to join. During her matriculation at Yale, Wu became interested in an equitable future when she studied abroad in Japan. She explored the dichotomy of the "Pan Asian" experience and her own triple identity consciousness as a woman with Taiwanese heritage against the backdrop of Chinese culture and a love for Japanese fashion. Wu has always sided with underrepresented individuals and groups in the US because of her family’s experience immigrating from Taiwan.
Wu explained that after George Floyd's death, she not only wanted to consult about diversity and inclusion on a macro level but see it implemented on a micro level. She decided to use her sustainability experience from consulting and her Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University to help a black-led startup.
At Goodr, Wu works to fight food insecurity in the City of Atlanta and cities across the country. As part of her role as a Goodr consultant, Wu has helped water utilities with infrastructure planning — focusing on public health and improving access to clean water. She used her environmental management background for water utility companies and balanced her skill set with community organizing to get out to vote with the local Asian American and Pacific Islander population.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 40 percent of the American food supply gets wasted, leading to 133 billion pounds of food going to landfills each year. Meanwhile, the USDA estimates that more than 38 million Americans live in households experiencing food insecurity. When a household experiences food insecurity, it is because of a lack of reliable access to nutritious, affordable food. At Goodr, Wu works with business partners who understand that “hunger isn’t an issue of scarcity; it’s a question of logistics.”
For Goodr and its partners, teamwork makes the dream work. Wu usesGoodr's business-to-business (B2B) app to coordinate surplus food pickups and does logistics consulting to help organizations divert their food waste from landfills. Goodr's app empowers businesses to use excess edible food to make a positive difference in their community and receive tax benefits from the donation.
In addition to creating a system that connects excess food to hungry households, Goodr also partners with major brands like Kellogg’s, Pepsi Co., and Amazon to stock food and home goods in free grocery stores. According to Lutheran Towers Director of Supportive Services Alexandria Giles, Goodr's grocery store helps "bring back dignity and independence" to the senior citizens living in the building. Lutheran Towers serves seniors in Midtown Atlanta.
When she isn’t working, Wu engages with communities to highlight the importance of turning out to vote for lesser-known political positions like the Public Service Commission, which regulates utility costs in the State of Georgia. For Wu, ensuring that the communities she serves are included in the political process as well as food distribution are part of her personal mission that she embodies in — both her personal and professional life — by feeding good.