According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 14% of the world’s food is lost between harvest and retail markets, while another 17% is wasted once it makes its way to stores and consumers’ homes. In the U.S. that number seats between 30-40%. After finding out about this issue, it didn’t sit well with four Plano East Senior High School students who sought to change that.

Jay Bhalala, Jeremy Chuah, Emmanuel Tawiah and Nikhil Jain told Plano Magazine this had been a concern for them since they were in the ninth grade. “We were doing what most people were doing at the time – calling restaurants near us and asking if they had leftover food and then finding nonprofits that take in that sort of food,” Bhalala said.

But in 2020, the pandemic interrupted this routine when most restaurants closed their doors. That’s when they decided to put their love for computer science to practice and created trefos.me, a website designed to pair restaurants directly with food banks.

“Our software provides both restaurants and food banks with the resources necessary to bridge the hunger gap,” reads the site description. The process is community focused and encourages residents to get involved.

The way it works is users will receive a notification that a registered restaurant has excess food available to pick up, each type of food is labeled with its weight, how old it is and pick-up availability. Then, users receive the necessary information to get the food and take it to a food bank. 

The initiative speaks volumes of how much these teens are in-tuned with their community, as previously covered by Local Profile, in July The Storehouse, a local nonprofit organization reported that since 2021, the demand for food assistance increased by 44 percent.

“We just really want to help people, especially homeless people that don’t have access to food,” Bhalala told Plano Magazine. “It’s pretty messed up that all those homeless people are on the street with no food while all these restaurants are throwing away tons of food every day.”

The group is looking for extra pairs of hands to jump into the project, and volunteering is not limited to food bank employees, instead, it is open to the whole community.