Maryland inventor’s Fresh Paper combats food waste, inspires young scientists

January 1, 1970 | Kavita Shukla and Fresh Paper (Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON — A Maryland inventor wants to inspire other young women and girls to dream big and follow their goals. On Wednesday, the International Day of the Girl, she shared her journey from being a kid interested in science to an entrepreneur.

Kavita Shukla was just 12 years old when, intrigued by her grandmother’s home remedy, she began to experiment with spice combinations in preserving food. The interest turned into a middle school science project in her parent’s garage in Columbia. Now her invention, Fresh Paper, is a commercial success and making a dent in combating global food waste.

“Fresh Paper is a natural little sheet of paper … infused with organic spices and made with all natural ingredients. You can just put it in your refrigerator drawer, your fruit bowl or anywhere you keep fruits and vegetables, and it keeps them fresh for longer,” she said.

Shukla created Fresh Paper for people such as her grandmother in India, who did not have access to refrigeration. But she hit some road bumps and said she was about to give up on the project until she brought a few handmade papers to the farmers market in Dupont Circle. After finding grass-roots support for her product from neighborhood consumers, Shukla found further inspiration at the Capital Area Food Bank.

“They opened my eyes to the idea that even a one- to two-day extension in shelf life can be really tremendous for the work that food banks do,” she said.

Capital Area Food Bank is not using the product, but spokeswoman Hillary Salmon said it could be put to use if it were donated.

In August, Shukla’s company announced a partnership with D.C.-based non profit Vital Voices to combat food waste.

“They’re helping us bring Fresh Paper to women that are working to increase food access to communities across the globe,” Shukla said.

Shukla is speaking at the women empowerment summit Leaders Light the Way in Rockville, Maryland, on Sunday, Oct. 15, and plans to share her journey with entrepreneurially minded women and girls.

“I’m hoping to be able to pass on to other women, especially those that are just dreaming or thinking about an idea, but they may not realize all that it is possible for them,” she said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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