WRITTEN BY: PARINITA GUPTA
(July 12, 2023) Just as he was settling at Cornell University, Niraj met Steve and the two were roommates during their first year, creating a friendship that soon turned into a business partnership. In 2002, Niraj Shah co-founded the home goods retailer, Wayfair, the largest home retail website in the world, with his college friend Steve Conine in Boston.
After seeing years of success and profits, Niraj wanted to give back to society. He believed that philanthropy could catalyse innovative and transformative strategies. In 2017, Niraj along with his wife, Jill, founded the Shah Family Foundation, with a focus on providing support to education and healthcare initiatives. The foundation’s core belief is that governments should take the lead in financing sustainable and profound community transformations, particularly in the areas of food accessibility, health and well-being, and education.
“The Foundation is focused on solutions that are at the intersection of health care, education, and community. The focus on the food program targeted at the Boston Public Schools and have partnered with other organisations such as About Fresh, Massachusetts General Hospital, Project Bread, and many more to bring in long-term, transformative community change,” informed Jill Shah, President, Shah Family Foundation.
The foundation has actively undertaken significant efforts to enhance the range and quality of food choices, specifically within K-12 schools. Their efforts involve introducing effective solutions that recognize and prioritize the interdependence of mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being. With a particular emphasis on the physical health and mental well-being of every child, striving to present successful approaches that address these aspects.
“There are so many students with a variety of gifts and assets, but without the advantage or proximity to communities or centers of education that allow them to prosper. This made me focus on high-quality education for every child,” told the Global Indian.
During the pandemic, the Shah Foundation expanded its efforts in school food initiatives by collaborating with local restaurants. This partnership aimed to address the challenges of unemployment while simultaneously tackling the issue of student food accessibility. The foundation also tried to enhance the availability of fresh and nutritious food, in turn improving food access.
Through the foundation’s work on food for schools, Niraj and Jill are more keenly aware of issues like food access, physical and mental health, and aim to eradicate poverty, creating a world free from hunger.