We had the good fortune of connecting with Jack Griffin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jack, every day, we talk about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I was 14 years old and a Georgia public school student when I tried and failed to find a food pantry to volunteer at back in 2013. This surprisingly difficult experience and the lack of reliable information on social services I encountered led me to research the barriers that face hungry families seeking help. I then realized that access to technology was more limited on the side of the food pantries than the people who were visiting them. Smartphones and the internet were becoming increasingly accessible as necessities rather than luxuries, so the idea was to create a one-stop-shop where any food insecure student or parent could quickly and privately find reliable info on when/where to get help from food pantries nearby,
Over the next 6 years throughout high school and college, I would launch and grow FoodFinder, a nonprofit organization whose website and mobile app show users when and where to get help from their closest food pantry. What began with a few dozen Metro Atlanta food pantries in a database has since grown into a nationally relied upon and award-winning resource in the fight against hunger.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
FoodFinder’s mission is to make it as easy as it should be to find food assistance nearby. More than ever because of COVID-19, we exist for one simple reason: if families experiencing hunger during the pandemic don’t know where free food relief is given out, they cannot and will not receive that help. To carry out this mission, FoodFinder uses both its website (foodfinder.us) and mobile app (FoodFinder – Fighting Hunger) to connect food insecure individuals and families to food assistance providers nearby.
It definitely wasn’t easy to grow FoodFinder to where it is today. Even over the course of 8 years since having the idea for FoodFinder, most of the progress I’ve made on our mission was while I was a full-time student either in high school here in Georgia or in college at the University of Michigan. But especially as I was studying both business and social work at college, I was taking classes and learning skills that directly applied to the work I was doing outside of class on FoodFinder. By the time I was a senior at Michigan, FoodFinder was already helping tens of thousands of hungry Americans every year. I knew that we could do even more, serve even more people in need if I jumped into leading our organization as my full-time job after college, and even though there was no promise of me having a salary just a year into going full-time, we made it work.
One of the greatest lessons from my service work came from a conversation I had with a local food pantry director a few years ago. When talking about her pantry’s visitors she said “This is a thin table we’re sitting at, I could be on either side of it. You never know what could happen.”
Hunger can affect anyone – it isn’t limited to any one type of person or community, so neither are we. Over my time leading it, FoodFinder has served disabled veterans, returning citizens from prison, working students, and working parents alike. We have enough food to feed everyone, so true food justice requires that the people who need it most will never have to worry about their next meal again. I am beyond grateful to help move the needle on hunger here in Georgia and across the nation.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well I’ve been craving everything in Krog Street Market myself since we went into quarantine, so I’d use that as an excuse to pick them up from the airport and get a cheesesteak from Fred’s Meat & Bread immediately afterwards. Especially with some nice weather, we could use the rest of the week to walk around the city, enjoy Piedmont Park etc. We’d definitely hit up a Hawks game, check out the Civil Rights Museum, and maybe take them to more of the tourist-y spots depending on if they’ve ever been to Atlanta or not. But the main focus (as it should be) would be the food. Going up and down Buford Highway, breakfast at the Silver Skillet, and Sunday supper at JCT Kitchen would make for a fun and filling way to round out the trip.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to shoutout my first boss, mentor, and fellow entrepreneur Mike Morris for helping me grow into the leader I am today. As someone who initially learned about FoodFinder as a judge for the very first award we ever received for our work just a few months after we launched in 2014, Mike has remained an invaluable friend and ally whom I can always turn to for advice. There’s simply no substitute for the role he’s played in my journey, so he deserves plenty more recognition than I can provide on my own!
Other: Link to donate to our cause if you feel so inclined! https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/NDgzNjk= or through our main site foodfinder.us