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  • Writer's pictureKevin May

Teaming Up for Impact! The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation & Village Capital. Ep. 23

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Through innovation, collaboration and community engagement, we’re committed to our mission of creating communities free of hunger and waste.

Episode 23 Summary

In spring of 2021, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation collaborated with Village Capital to help source, understand and unlock capital to support innovative solutions that prevent, recover and recycle food waste.

They encouraged applications from innovators building high-growth, scalable solutions focused on the following challenge:

“We seek to reshape the food system by supporting innovators who are elevating food to its highest use and disrupting the linear supply chain. This could include solutions such as imperfect produce lines, upcycled foods & meal kits, upcycled commercial ingredients and more.”

With nearly 150 companies applying, 10 were selected for the 2021 Innovation Fund cohort. See the list below to learn more about these companies.

In this episode we learn about the vision and mission of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, and that of Village Capital. We talk about the Innovation Fund cohort, what it is, how they are all working together on this initiative, and the impact potential from the companies that were selected this year, and from the companies selected in the inaugural 2019 cohort.

Learn more about The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation

Learn more about Village Capital:



Sunny Reelhorn Parr

Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation

Sunny serves as the head of corporate philanthropy and strategy at Kroger. With annual revenues of $132 billion, Kroger is the world’s third-largest retailer and ranks #17 on the Fortune 500 list.

She leads philanthropy, which includes responsibility for both The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation and The Kroger Co. Foundation. In her role, she directs the corporate philanthropic strategy and grantmaking across the Kroger family of companies. She oversees $175 million in assets and a $38 million portfolio of grantmaking. She is passionate about catalyzing innovation and change through meaningful, trusting partnerships with community leaders and experts. In her role, she oversees the $10 million Innovation Fund – the first philanthropic commitment to seek and provide nondilutive grant funding to innovative startups, solutions and technologies focused on ending food waste – as well as the $5 million Racial Equity Fund to support organizations who are working to advance racial equity through innovative solutions. She is committed to advancing Kroger’s purpose to Feed the Human Spirit.

Sunny attended The Ohio State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Operations and Supply Chain, magna cum laude. She also earned a Master of Public Administration from Upper Iowa University in Homeland Security, summa cum laude. Most recently, Sunny completed the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Sunny serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Adopt a Class Foundation. She lives in Northern Kentucky with her husband and son, and they enjoy traveling together.

Connect with Sunny on Linkedin

Ali Berman

The Kroger Company

Ali Berman serves a Program Officer in the Foundation Office at Kroger, supporting Kroger’s charitable giving strategy, working with internal and external partners. Ali manages the day to day operations of the Foundation Office and supports the work of The Kroger Co. Foundation and The Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. She is passionate about creating positive, measurable impact in the community and catalyzing innovation in the social impact space.

Ali brings experience from the non-profit, private and public sectors. She has experience in innovation, program and project management, community growth, and philanthropy with over 10 years of experience working closely with executive teams, supporting partnerships, communities and entrepreneurs.

Ali graduated with B.A. in Business and Spanish with a minor in International Affairs from Skidmore College. Her passions include innovation, impact investing, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and diversity and inclusion. In her free time, Ali enjoys traveling to all parts of the world and spending time with friends and family.”

Connect with Ali on Linkedin

Kelly Bryan

Village Capital

As Sustainability Practice Lead at Village Capital, Kelly develops strategy and programming to find, train, and support entrepreneurs solving problems related to sustainability, the future of food, and agriculture. She is particularly passionate about helping underserved entrepreneurs navigate their start-ups through critical milestones and secure strategic investment. Kelly joined Village Capital from Sorenson Impact Foundation, where she worked directly with social enterprise start-ups in SIF’s global portfolio to advance new initiatives and drive growth. Over the last 10 years Kelly has worked across multiple sectors within early stage venture capital and impact investing. She continues to focus on meeting founder needs first and pushing for improved access to capital and resources in order to help underrepresented founders scale solutions to critical problems often devalued or poorly understood by mainstream economic players that affect millions of lives.

Connect with Kelly on Linkedin

Julia Fisher

Village Capital

Julia gets excited by applying more than 5 years of work experience to impulse positive sustainable change. Coming from a background in fintech, corporate innovation and strategy, she worked as an Innovation Manager in the Latin American and Spanish Fintech ecosystems, designing and facilitating pilot programs between startups and financial institutions as well as leading thought leadership reports relevant to the industry. Before that, she was a Sustainable Finance Analyst at BBVA, dedicating her time to analyze and confirm that large projects in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and mining receiving the financing (+100€ million) were managing their resources efficiently as well as evaluating the potential environmental and social impact of the projects. She also worked as a Strategy Analyst consulting social entrepreneurs. Her projects ranged from empowering business-women in Nicaragua and refugees in Uganda through microfinance to helping plan and execute an online platform which facilitates the deployment of humanitarians to disaster-struck areas, among other initiatives.

She studied a Dual Degree in International Finance from Northeastern University (Boston) and Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, ICADE (Madrid).

Connect with Julia on Linkedin


Meet the companies in the 2021 Innovation Fund Cohort:

Watch for upcoming podcast special episodes featuring stories from each of these companies.

Hanford, CA

Agua Bonita makes ready-to-drink aguas frescas from upcycled produce, served in culturally inspired and recyclable cans. Learn More

San Antonio, TX

Grain4Grain uses patent pending technology to upcycle brewers spent grain into a low carb, high protein, high fiber flour. Learn More

West Palm Beach, FL

Husky Beverages features the healthy superfruit of coffee with a sparkling tea made from the “husk” of organic, upcycled coffee fruit. Learn More

Austin, TX

Journey Foods is a portfolio intelligence company that solves food science and supply chain inefficiencies with software to help companies direct more surplus food to those who need it.

Nyack, NY

Matriark Foods upcycles farm surplus and fresh-cut remnants into healthy affordable products for institutional foodservice, diverting wasted food from landfill while feeding communities healthy food. Learn More

Minneapolis, MN

NETZRO is a food tech platform for recovering industrial byproducts at scale that would otherwise be wasted into new upcycled ingredients. Learn More

Denver, CO

reBLEND is a line of frozen smoothie pops packed with fruits + veggies + superfoods and a bold mission to tackle food waste by re-harvesting produce that would typically be discarded.

Oakland, CA

Renewal Mill upcycles byproducts from food manufacturing into superfood ingredients and premium, plant-based pantry staples. Learn More

Portland, OR

Take Two is a plant-based food company that creates second chances by using Rejuvenated Barley™, upcycled spent grain from beer production, to craft our products, including a line of nutritious barley milks. Learn More

New York, NY

The Spare Food Co. is an upcycled food tech platform that creates foods and drinks using overlooked and unused ingredients sourced from growers and food processors.


Mentioned in this episode:


Special thanks to our Sponsors and Production Team:


Upcycled Food Association -

Produced by Hi-Fly'n Productions

Executive Producer | Host: Kevin May

Associate Producer: Ashley Brown

Creative Development: Sue Marshall

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