Meet our community hero: Nithin Parthasarathy

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Tell us about yourself: 

I’m a 16-year-old High School student and I am from Orange County, California. I’m the founder of the non-profit organization Zero Waste Initiative, dedicated to donating baking goods to charities. 

How did your organization get started?

Nithin Parthasarathy

It all started in January of 2020 when I was eating at a Bruegger’s bagel store and noticed that they were throwing away baked goods at the end of the day that were good quality and fresh but just made in excess. When I saw this food waste occur at stores, I just realized that there was this really big disparity that has been a recurring theme. So, I decided to start my organization with a mission to rescue food waste and reduce food insecurity and preserve the sustainable environment. 

What are some of the challenges you faced?

One of the biggest challenges that I faced was my age. When I first started the initiative I was only 15 and a sophomore in High School, so it took a lot of convincing and advocacy to prove to the managers at these stores that I was really dedicated to the cause since they were very skeptical at first.

How did covid affect your organization?

There were a lot of temporary store closures due to covid and a lot of stores that were no longer willing to donate their baked goods. I had to reach out to them and fill in that gap until they were able to work it out so the food wouldn’t go to waste. 

How has your community evolved?

Nithin Parthasarathy

It’s definitely made us more aware of the struggles of others, whether it’s about food waste or just having a shoulder to lean on or someone to talk to. We also have that mutually shared goal of wanting to help people, so it has brought us all closer together, especially the volunteers and I. Some of the volunteers were people that I knew in passing but now I know them really well and we’re all there to support one another.

What makes you want to keep doing this? 

Nithin Parthasarathy

The driving motivation for me is seeing the gratefulness of the people who get the bagels. Two of the biggest instances that stand out to me are the time we donated bagels to firefighters to feed them during the OC fires and seeing children’s reactions at the Orange County Rescue Mission when they saw me coming out of the car with bagels and donuts.