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Young ChangeMakers Promoting Climate Action: Why and How Adam Fry of Budgeat Is Helping To Change…

Young ChangeMakers Promoting Climate Action: Why and How Adam Fry of Budgeat Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Monica Sanders

Get going: There’s never going to be a perfect time to start, it’s best to just get going. Of course there might be better or worse times and you need to account for other life considerations, but don’t wait for that “perfect” moment. I probably waited longer than I needed to in order to start focusing on food waste and we would be further along if I hadn’t. You don’t necessarily need to quit your job to get started, you can make a lot of progress outside of work hours.

We are standing at a critical juncture in our fight against climate change, and it is heartening to see young leaders rising to this enormous challenge. Across the globe, they are initiating change, voicing their concerns, and catalyzing action toward sustainable solutions for our planet. These young change-makers are not just the future; they are the driving force of the present. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Fry.

Adam is the Co-Founder and COO of Budgeat, a technology company focused on making healthy food accessible and reducing food waste through their next-generation digital kitchen assistant application. Prior to joining Budgeat he spent 6 years at Iora, a healthcare startup aimed at improving health outcomes for older adults, which was acquired by One Medical in September of 2021. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and M.B.A. from Northeastern University. In his free time he’s a prolific consumer of print news, avid world traveler, and consummate culinary explorer.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Amsterdam until the age of 13. I had a happy upbringing and although money was often tight and life wasn’t perfect I feel very fortunate. My parents instilled strong values into my brothers and me — do what’s right, work hard, care about others, aim to leave the world a better place — and to this day I feel like that’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I benefited from experiencing both a more socialized western European society and the more individualistic, capitalist system of the U.S. after we moved to NY. I think that really helped me appreciate the value of being open minded and having a broad worldview.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Bill Gates was always a bit of an idol to me, not because he made so much money, but because he gave so much away. When he launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with his former wife it seemed astounding to me that an individual could be the catalyst for so much good in the world. It opened my eyes both to the role individuals can play in improving the world, whether through capital, ideas, leadership, or other means, as well as how much work there is to be done to improve the societies we live in.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I view making a difference as any action that has a net positive effect on the world. This can be small or large and can take innumerable different forms. Volunteering a few times a month at a food bank, cleaning up a littered section of the beach, working hard at a mission driven organization, articulating a new and beneficial way of thinking in a well received essay, simply being kind to a stranger in need — these are all different ways to have a net positive impact on the world.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently working on promoting climate action. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Definitely — I co-founded Budgeat together with Alex Munoz and Nick Munoz to improve access to healthy food and fight food waste. We aim to leverage technology to help people eat better, save money, and waste less by giving them a digital kitchen assistant that can do things like help them find affordable groceries, provide personalized healthy and delicious meal recommendations, manage their fridge and pantry so nothing goes to waste, amongst other things. Globally we waste around 1/3rd of all food that’s produced, around 8–10% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to food that’s wasted, and in developed nations households are by far the biggest culprit, accounting for around half of all wasted food. It’s absolutely absurd. Food waste really is a low hanging fruit in the fight against climate change. We believe there’s a massive opportunity to bring technology into the kitchen in a meaningful way to help tackle this issue and provide all these ancillary benefits like improved diet, increased access, and just plain old convenience.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause? How old were you when you made this decision?

I’ve always been really interested in the idea of efficiency. I think being a good steward of finite resources and preventing waste go hand in hand with this concept. I became more environmentally focused when I was in high school and I did a 3 year science research course for which I had to actually run an experiment. I studied green roofs and learned a lot about things like stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow, urban heat island effects, energy efficiency, air quality issues, etc. It was basically all bad stuff, which in my view, could relatively easily be overcome with common sense solutions. This built on my upbringing, during which wasting food was instilled more as a moral issue. We literally had these wooden bread platters passed down in the family inscribed with the phrase “waste not, want not,” and my parents were not ones to waste things in general. I think the combination of the intellectual interest in efficiency and optimization combined with my upbringing and education are the root of my passion for food waste.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

It was really when Alex approached me and told me about this idea he’d been working on. I had a personal interest in food waste for some time and had actually done a bit of research about a similar concept to Budgeat. In late 2021 we sold the startup I was working at. I stayed on to help with the sale, but had long planned to take some time to travel and then pursue the entrepreneurial itch I’ve had for much of my life. So when in 2022 toward the end of my travels I was having lunch with Nick, who is one of my best friends, and his brother Alex, and Alex started talking about the concept of Budgeat my interest was very much piqued. Nick and I were planning to work together already, so it made sense for the 3 of us to band together given our complementary skill sets and backgrounds.

What are some of the things you did, or steps you took to get started?

I’m a relatively methodical person so I wanted to arm myself with as much information as possible. Having worked at a startup before and completed an MBA I’d fortunately been exposed to a lot of the general startup and business concepts so I focused a lot on learning about the problem we were trying to solve and how we might build a business around the solution. Alex had started working on a solution already, but I wanted to feel confident it was a real problem people were facing and there was a market for it, so I did a lot of market validation work at the start. I talked to as many people as I could, gathered a lot of feedback both in-person and online, and did a lot of research. That really gave me the confidence to go all in.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I’m not sure if there are tremendous generalizable learnings from this — but don’t underestimate the power of the platforms! We did a lot of online “guerilla” marketing at first, as well as some smaller paid campaigns, and I learned the hard way that once you get blocked by the likes of Meta, Google Ads, Reddit, etc. it can be really hard to get unblocked. We’re all avid travelers on the team, so something as simple as signing into your Google Ads account from the wrong country while traveling can cause you weeks of headaches.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have many great mentors and bosses over the years. At Iora, the startup where I worked before, I came in as an analyst fresh out of college and left as a Sr. Director of Strategic Finance 6 years later when we sold the company. I had the privilege of reporting to a series of phenomenal bosses who I probably wouldn’t have even interacted with much at a large organization. I attribute most of my rapid professional development over those 6 years to them. It was often a bit intimidating at first, but they supported me and were willing to give me a lot of responsibility and accountability to go with it. At one of my first big presentations at a leadership retreat I stumbled clumsily at the start as the nerves overcame me, but the reassuring faces helped me persevere and constructive feedback allowed me to improve over time. When we started the sale process there were meetings when I did much of the talking and I felt infinitely more comfortable than during those early presentations. I aspire to build a supportive culture at Budgeat like the one I benefited from so greatly at Iora, one where people can really excel and realize their full potential.

Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We recently had a member let us know they finally were able to achieve their health goals and dramatically reduce their climate anxiety. This type of positive feedback really motivates us as a team. Many individuals struggle with finding food that ticks all the boxes, being healthy, affordable, and enjoyable. By using Budgeat this person was able to find recipes and create meal plans that were tailored to her and fit her budget, helping her reach her health goals. As is the case with a growing number of people she also had been experiencing this sense of anxiety about climate change and a feeling of helplessness. She felt she personally couldn’t do much about it. As she started using Budgeat and cut her food waste to near zero she felt a lot of empowerment and agency since she was finally able to act on her desire to fight climate change, which put her in a better headspace.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Definitely — I’d say 3 things are:

  1. We need greater awareness around the issue of food waste. The climate impact is more than 4x that of the airline industry, but it doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Get interested and get educated! It’s one of the most actionable things we can each do to help fight climate change.
  2. We need common sense legislation for food waste. Many countries and an increasing number of states and municipalities in the U.S. have effective carrot and stick policies in place and we need that in all states. The Zero Food Waste Coalition, which is a collaborative between the NRDC, WWF, Harvard Food Law Policy Clinic, and ReFed, has done a lot of great work to craft model legislation that legislative bodies can leverage.
  3. We need more funding. The opportunity food waste represents is tremendous, but the level of funding into the space simply isn’t commensurate with the size of the problem. Governments, philanthropic organizations, investors, and other funders could have a major impact by allocating more of their finite funding to the space.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

1 . Get going: There’s never going to be a perfect time to start, it’s best to just get going. Of course there might be better or worse times and you need to account for other life considerations, but don’t wait for that “perfect” moment. I probably waited longer than I needed to in order to start focusing on food waste and we would be further along if I hadn’t. You don’t necessarily need to quit your job to get started, you can make a lot of progress outside of work hours.

2 . Be scrappy: I knew we’d need to be scrappy at the start, but I could have embraced this mindset even more. At the start you’ll constantly be experimenting and “hustling” to get things done. Don’t be afraid of it. We get a lot of traction on platforms like Reddit, but we didn’t try this at the start since we wanted to try more traditional routes first. If it works, it works, so don’t be afraid to try things that feel scrappy. In the words of the great Paul Graham “Do things that don’t scale.”

3 . Focus on getting to product-market fit: We spent time early on doing things we probably didn’t need to like writing a culture code and drafting legalese. I’m not saying that stuff isn’t important, but I’ve come to appreciate how much of a startup is about focusing on the right things at the right time. Time is the ultimate commodity and initially really focusing on building the right solution to a real problem and finding the right market for it is going to be more important than most other things.

4 . Don’t get discouraged: Trying to solve a real, big problem is a wild ride. Don’t get discouraged by the failures or lack of immediate momentum along the way. Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed 10,000 times — I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” While you probably don’t want to employ a guess-and-check approach to problem solving, the reality is you’re going to need to iterate furiously in a structured manner to find what does work. We iterate daily as a team and we’re still far from reaching our goals. There are hard days and weeks, so embrace a steadfast mindset.

5 . Do something you care about: It was somewhat by luck that after college I ended up at an organization whose mission I was passionate about. I quickly realized how big of a difference that makes. The long hours, tough projects, and hard weeks are all made infinitely more manageable when they’re in the context of advancing a mission you’re passionate about. The lows are less painful and you bounce back faster, and the highs are more fulfilling. I was introduced to the concept of Ikigai by a former colleague and I encourage everyone to use that as a tool when deciding what to focus your finite time on. Your pursuit of happiness is going to be greatly facilitated by spending your time working on something you care about.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Ultimately there’s nothing more fulfilling than making a positive impact. We live in the world we do today because of the contributions from those who came before us. It’s the hallmark of human advancement and our shared privilege and responsibility to continue contributing and perpetuating this progress. I truly believe that some meaningful form of “giving back” is a key ingredient in the recipe for a full life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to meet Bill Gates and Barack Obama. They’re two people who have inspired me more than most other living individuals. I feel they share many of the same humanist values I hold and have been able to act on them in ways that have had an immense net positive impact on the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m personally not on social media, but you can follow Budgeat under the handle Budgeatapp on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Our website is We’d love for you to follow along on this journey we’re on.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

About the Interviewer: Monica Sanders JD, LL.M, is the founder of “The Undivide Project”, an organization dedicated to creating climate resilience in underserved communities using good tech and the power of the Internet. She holds faculty roles at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. Professor Sanders also serves on several UN agency working groups. As an attorney, Monica has held senior roles in all three branches of government, private industry, and nonprofits. In her previous life, she was a journalist for seven years and the recipient of several awards, including an Emmy. Now the New Orleans native spends her time in solidarity with and championing change for those on the frontlines of climate change and digital divestment. Learn more about how to join her at:

Young ChangeMakers Promoting Climate Action: Why and How Adam Fry of Budgeat Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.