For Oscar Ekponimo, growing up came with challenges, as he had to cope with his family’s financial challenges. At the age of 11, his father took ill, and was unable to work, leaving the family struggling to make ends meet and put meals on the table.
In an interview with CNN, he revealed, “I remember most times there was little or no food in the house. I had to go to school without food and got by with snacks friends shared with me.”
This experienced sparked a dream in young Oscar, and he resolved to provide a solution that would help people facing same challenges. In his words, “I always said in the future I would do something to ensure others wouldn’t go through what I went through.”
That dream has become a reality, and given birth to Chowberry, an app that connects supermarkets to NGOs and low-income earners, allowing them to buy food that’s about to expire at a discount.
The cloud-based software application enables retailers to scan item barcodes on packaged food items three months before expiry date. As the end of shelf-life approaches, the software generates notifications, initiating discounts that increase as the products approach their final date. Low-income consumers and partnering food-relief agencies are then notified where discounts are being offered.
Chowberry ensures that all products nearing expiry dates are purchased and consumed through partnerships with NGOs and organizations who require affordable food and have high consumption and usage rate. The company works with orphanages, faith based organizations, who act as uptake partners as well as interested customers and consumers who can purchase products nearing expiration for low prices.
According to Ekponimo, “I saw an opportunity to provide affordable nutrition to millions of people while providing retailers with a sustainable system for managing the end of shelf-life. This is a win-win solution.”
The app has so far been successful at meeting needs of the poor. A three-month pilot with 300 users and 20 partner retailers within Lagos and Abuja, fed about 150 orphans and vulnerable children. In June 2016, Chowberry signed its first official retailer partner, Ekponimo’s first step in his ambition to reach 50,000–100,000 low-income households, and ultimately alleviate hunger for many Nigerians.
For Ekponimi, the response to the project has been encouraging, and he is hopeful that more national retailers will join the scheme, as it will tackle the challenge of reaching out to the very poor.