“Eat life, feel alive,” Jamie Himler said about her life and business philosophy. Environmental management and protection sophomore Himler wants to change the fate of imperfect food products, ensuring they end up in people’s stomachs rather than in garbage cans.
Feel Alive was created by Jamie Himler and environmental engineering senior Gerardo “Jerry” Cortes because they both had a dream in mind: to solve the issue of local food waste. They pitched their idea at the Cal Poly Startup Weekend November 2017. Within 54 hours, they had brought their company to life.
Himler and Cortes boothed at San Luis Obispo events and festivals prior to Feel Alive becoming a legitimate business. They simply had a passion for providing people with repurposed, locally-sourced vegan food.
“It was so much fun that we decided that we wanted to keep doing that,” Himler said. “But when we learned about the world problem of food waste and how prevalent and local the issue is, we wanted to help solve food waste while being able to share nutritious food with people.”
Cortes is now primarily pursuing yoga instruction, so nutrition science sophomore Maya Smigel has enthusiastically filled in his role as a Feel Alive leader.
Now, about 20 people are part of the Feel Alive team. Each person has a specialty in business, food science or art, so the business pulls from the different strengths of its contributors. The members collect extra food that would otherwise be composted from the local farmers’ market each week.
“We usually give [Feel Alive] a lot of the stuff we’re not going to sell anymore after the [farmers’] market, so it’s good because we usually end up tossing it anyways,” Aldo Chavez of Chavez Family Farms said. “We can’t really do anything with it, so if it’s being put to use, then that’s better.”
Smigel said because supermarkets are prohibited from giving out their expired or unused food to people, Feel Alive is trying to work with larger organizations to change the law. They would also like to help reduce the amount of food thrown away from Campus Dining.
According to Himler, one in four Cal Poly students are food-insecure. One of Feel Alive’s greatest ambitions is to minimize food waste in San Luis Obispo while providing food for those in need.
“All of the food that we take in is totally fine,” Himler said. “Usually it doesn’t look perfect … We collect all of the funky-looking food, but it’s still fresh and nutritious and delicious.”
Himler and Smigel store the food they collect at their house, which works perfectly because they distribute each food haul before acquiring the next one. The two will typically use whatever they have to make vegan foods and cater events for free. Feel Alive has had booths at SubSessions events, Shabang and Cal Poly sustainability events. Common items that they serve are bread, fruits, lettuce wraps, soups, curries and juices.
“We just want to spread the benefits of vegan food to people and help other people get that same vibrancy and really feel alive,” Himler said. “A lot of people have actually told us that they’ve gone vegan since trying our food and just seeing what we do.”
“It’s the reason why we do this,” Smigel added. “Food waste and veganism — put it together and we create this beautiful thing.”
The two hope to attend more events where they can help educate those interested in helping the environment. They plan to continue Feel Alive and to spread its concept throughout the United States and beyond.
“This is us trying to save the world,” Smigel said. “This is us trying to make a difference.”
Feel Alive’s next appearance will be at SubSessions’ Life’s A Peach festival May 19.