Episode 2: Roger Gordon of Food Cowboy

Roger Gordon, Trail Boss and Co-founder of Food Cowboy

In episode 2 of the Wasted Food Series, we hear from Roger Gordon, Trailboss and Co-founder of Food Cowboy, a company that uses location-based technology to route commercial food away from dumpsters and into food banks. 

Roger Gordon has broken a bank monopoly, run for office, fought organized crime, clerked for Congress, helped entrepreneurs raise millions, worked to advance civil and human rights, and visited over 30 countries. In 2014, Fast Company named him one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. He holds an MBA from Kellogg and a JD from Georgetown. Today, he runs Food Cowboy, a technology company dedicated to ending food waste.

Connect with Food Cowboy: Twitter, Facebook

Full Episode

Short Episode


  • Creation Story of Food Cowboy: Brothers Roger and Richard started 30 years ago [5:05]
  • Why Roger has chosen to address food waste and alleviating hunger [5:59]
  • Richard’s background: 16 years of hauling produce, responding to humanitarian crises in US [8:04]
  • ReFED’s 3 pillars of Food Recovery: Education for business, Enabling Policy, Efficient use of Transportation and cold storage [10:00] 
  • Barriers to donation: timing conflict between when produce becomes available for donation and operating hours for food banks and pantries [11:40]
  • Obstacles to truckers donating food instead of dumping it: lack of information and logistics to coordinate with charities [14:03]
  • Barriers to donors: Costs to donate (handle and transport) food outweighs cost to simply dispose of it [14:23] 
  • Food banks throw away 20% of the fresh produce they are given due to lack of infrastructure such as cold storage [14:49]  
  • Every 19 days the food industry throws away more food than it donates in an entire year due to capacity constraints  [15:09]
  • How HR2029 introduced by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Tom Reed (NY), have increased tax incentives to growers and food producers [16:00]
  • How changes to tax code could reduce the food industry’s taxable income by up to $6 billion and reduce food waste disposal by $1.3 billion[17:27]
  • How Food Cowboys facilitates partnerships between donors and charities, leveraging donation tax incentives to create a virtuous cycle: funding for Food Cowboy, which uses 2/3 of that revenue to invest into building infrastructure  [19:01]
  • Food Cowboy could invest $50 million per year into food banks by recovering just 15% of fresh produce and 6% shelf-stable foods that are currently being thrown away in the supply chain [23:09]
  • Recovering just 7% supply chain’s annual food waste would allow food companies to $485 million in tax deductions [25:13] 
  • Building new infrastructure: Reimagining food banks to become food hubs that accept food waste and house central composting, anaerobic digesters and sources animal feed [26:22]
  • Limo for the leftovers to recover food from large events and weddings [27:40]
  • Every 2 people waste enough calories to feed a 3rd person in America [28:28]
  • 3 Step Strategy for Food Cowboy [29:34]
  • Food Posse and Food Cowboy platform to create donation partnerships between food stores (donors) and their consumers (transportation) [30:38]
  • Food security defined [31:50] 
  • How co-founder Barbara Cohen’s expertise in food security has informed Food Cowboy’s business model [32:22]


Imperfect Produce : Ugly Produce. Delivered


Growing Soul : Connecting, Educating, Nourishing


ForSolutions : The sustainable answer to food scraps management



San Diego Food Bank : Distributing food to hungry San Diego families


AmpleHarvest.org : Enabling home & community gardeners to donate their surplus crops to food pantries


Hungry Harvest : Recovered Produce. Delivered!


Guide for Farmers to collect tax deductions for donations under the new 2016 tax code, offered by the National Gleaning Project http://forms.vermontlaw.edu/farmgleaning/factsheets/EnhancedTaxDeductionGuideForFarmers.pdf

Other companies using Donation Matching Software:  

  •  https://olioex.com/ (UK) Connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away
  • https://www.planzheroes.org/#!/ (UK) Online platform connecting businesses with surplus food to donate with charities, and facilitates transportation by volunteer members.