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Nonprofits Use Apps to Get Food to Needy

Food waste and hunger are two huge problems in the United States, but nonprofits are using apps to address the issue.

The USDA estimates that over 30% of the food produced each year in the US is not consumed—ironically, mostly due to regulations from the government. If food gets too old, vendors have throw it away—even if it’s still safe to eat.

To combat the food waste, apps enable volunteers to pick up the extra food and deliver it to nonprofits, who deliver it to hungry people.

“KFC is preparing chicken continuously, Chipotle is preparing food continuously. We rescue it while it’s still hot and freeze it quickly,” says Bill Reighard, founder and CEO of Food Donation Connection. Since 1992, the nonprofit has been working to get unsold food to the needy, coordinating donations from companies like Pizza Hut.

nonprofits apps food waste
A volunteer using the Food Rescue Hero app to check in at a Pittsburgh grocery store to pick up donated food. (Monica Godfrey-Garrison/412 Food Rescue via AP)

“Many of the problems in the world today feel too big for one person to handle, but feeding the hungry is a way to take action,” says Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue, based in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a step that you can take today,” she says, “and it’s very clear what your impact is. It’s as clear as feeding someone that day.”

Lizadorno’s nonprofit made an app called Food Rescue Hero that works on a model similar to Lyft or Door Dash: users can see instantly if unsold food is available at local stores and restaurants, and volunteer immediately to deliver it to a soup kitchen or food pantry.

Food Rescue Hero has announced that it’s teaming up with Reighard’s Food Donation Connection to build a shared online platform. The goal of their collaboration is to make it even easier for people to help those in need.

nonprofits apps food waste
Melinda Angeles and Eli Thomas transporting a donation of bagels from Bruegger's Bagels across the 9th Street bridge to a North Side senior center in Pittsburgh. (Nancy Andrews/412 Food Rescue via AP)

The MealConnect app from Feeding America takes the same approach. It has been used since 2014 for scheduled donations from chains like Walmart and Target. Beginning last summer, volunteers can also sign up to do impromptu, smaller food rescues. After they’ve registered at MealConnect.org or via the app, volunteers get a short training session at a food bank and are outfitted with a small toolkit of food safety equipment.

Volunteers might be “between classes, or maybe they’re retired, or they’re an Uber or Lyft driver that wants to take a break from driving people around,” says Justin Block, managing director of MealConnect at Feeding America.

There’s no doubt that people want to help others, and they will if given the freedom to do so. As we can see, they’ll even come up with innovative ways to help those less fortunate. And the easier it becomes to help those in need, the more people will do it—voluntarily.

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Private Practitioners in Hong Kong Volunteer Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

As the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) worsens, healthcare workers in China have struggled to keep up with the amount of patients who are in need of treatment. This is in part due to the influx of cases and their own workers being impacted by COVID-19. According to recent numbers, the confirmed cases of the virus are reaching beyond 76,000 with the majority of those cases in China.

Over 1,700 healthcare workers have now contracted the virus, adding to the strain on essential manpower. As this crisis continues it’s outspreading impact on the country, a union named the “Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong” has offered help by sending 135 of their private practitioners to assist at public hospitals.

Mak Kam-fai, chairman of the Hong Kong Disciplined Services Volunteer Corps, has said about 300 people from across departments have offered to help in the coronavirus fight. Photo: Edward Wong

Not only are doctors offering their aid during the outbreak, but 300 officers from disciplined services have also volunteered their own manpower by setting up areas for quarantine and gathering general patient information. At the quarantine sites, surgical masks and other supplies are given to those in need of them. “Some of our officers have qualifications, such as in nursing, and can offer medical help. We can also help check people’s body temperatures in heavy passenger flow areas, such as control points or main MTR stations,” says Mak, a retired officer within the fire services.

This comes at a time when medical practitioners are going on strike amongst the difficult and dangerous conditions surrounding their work place environment. Still, volunteers have persisted and are introduced to safety protocols first thing, including the process of putting on and removing their protective gear.

Current and retired members of Hong Kong’s disciplined services have volunteered to help amid the outbreak. Some may be used to do temperature checks. Photo: Winson Wong

Most of the volunteers feel that it is their duty to offer their knowledge and services during a crisis of this magnitude. Cheng Yuk-leung, a retired corrections officer with a nursing background, took his position firmly: “It’s a sense of responsibility for our society. As an enrolled nurse, I can offer more medical assistance, especially in the quarantine sites.”

The fact that the picket lines in the hospital have been crossed by brave volunteers willing to risk their own health amid the growing coronavirus outbreak—not to mention the tens of millions of donated dollars—is an inspiring example of what people are willing to do for their fellow man in times of crisis, no coercion required.

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Gates Foundation Donates $100 Million for Coronavirus Relief

The novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China is still spreading across the globe. Agencies across the world are collaborating to help stop the virus, and at the head of the pack is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged up to $100 million in aid.

CNN Business reports that the funds will be directed towards government and non-government agencies in an effort to improve detection and treatment for the disease—including vaccine development.

“The release of fast and flexible funding is intended to help multilateral organizations and national public health authorities rapidly scale up their virus detection capabilities and implement disease modeling analytics,” the Foundation said in a statement.

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates at an event in New York in 2018.

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and is the world’s second-richest person. He and his wife Melinda have been donating to improve public health for years. In 2009, they gave $33 million to help with a tuberculosis outbreak in China. In 2010, they committed $10 billion toward vaccine research.

Other wealthy business leaders have pledged millions to provide aid during the coronavirus outbreak, including Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma ($14.4 million) and Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun ($1.8 million). With such a tremendous outpouring of aid, there’s no doubt that given the opportunity, people can and will help each other voluntarily.

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Charity Never Faileth

Many people associate the word “charity” with classic Christian teachings about love and kindness. The apostle Paul said “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Jesus encouraged his disciples to love their neighbors and help the poor. Charity is clearly an important part of Christian teaching and living. However, many well-intentioned people confuse the charity and goodness that Christianity teaches with the welfare programs of the government.

This is an easy mistake to make. After all, doesn’t the government help people that are in need? And the money for that comes from taxes, so we shouldn’t complain about paying taxes, right? Many people who learn about voluntaryism and similar philosophies are impressed by the emphasis on individual liberty, but are concerned with what they perceive as a lack of compassion. A research scientist named Dr. Mary Ruwart phrased it this way in her essay “Arriving at Libertarianism”: “Raised as a Catholic, I could not reconcile the concept of ending tax-supported welfare with Christ’s admonition to love our neighbors” (I Chose Liberty p. 502).

Dr. Ruwart’s dilemma is one that is shared by many people. But once you realize that government action means force—violence—the situation becomes much clearer.

"If people needed helping, I should expend my energy to offer help, rather than forcing others to provide it."

“In considering this dilemma, I suddenly became aware of the pivotal point: although refusing to help others might not be very loving, pointing guns at our neighbors to force them to help those in need was even less so. Honoring our neighbor’s choice was more loving than the forcible alternative. If people needed helping, I should expend my energy to offer help, rather than forcing others to provide it” (ibid).

Dr. Ruwart realized the key difference, something that we at Voluntaryism in Action are passionate about: the voluntary nature of the giving. When you give to a needy person because you want to, not only is the needy person helped, but you are uplifted. In Christian terms, you come closer to God—and in anyone’s terms, you become a kinder, better person. Sometimes people say that government welfare and taxation just makes it easier to help the poor—but that’s why VIA is here! We and organizations like us exist to make it easier for you to give voluntarily. To us, it’s just another manifestation of how voluntaryism is a philosophy that really works. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, that “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

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Superstore Voluntarily Feeds Needy Families

Winter can be a hard time of year for anyone, but just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that people’s hearts are cold. Pam Smallman, manager of the Superstore in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, is proof of that.

The CBC reports that every Saturday from noon to 1PM, the Superstore offers a free lunch to anybody who wants to come. “Whether it be that they’re hungry or whether it be that they’re lonely, and they just want to come in and have a bite to eat, then we want to do that,” said Smallman. Her new initiative was prompted by a phone call she received several weeks ago—from a man who had no money to buy food for his family, but didn’t get paid until the next week.

“He reached out to me for some help and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. And it’s been on my mind ever since because I just thought ‘my God, this man had to call and ask me to help him because he couldn’t feed his family’ and it was just a heart-stopping moment.”

The lunches will be simple, says Pam Smallman: soup and sandwich, or maybe chili and rolls.

The lunches will be prepared by staff with food donated from the Superstore. Smallman doesn’t know how many people will take advantage of her offer, but she wants to create a worm and welcoming space for them.

“Winter is a tough time for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons,” said Smallman. “I live here. These are my family, these are my friends, these are my neighbours, and I know from growing up here and I know from being here that there’s a lot of people that struggle.”

Meeting bills for groceries or utilities between paychecks is a common need—it’s one of the things we’re most frequently asked about at VIA. Smallman is a perfect example that people can deeply empathize with their fellows—and from that empathy, voluntarily help them.

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VIA Raises $15K for Australian Fire Relief

The 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia was especially devastating. Fires burned approximately 26 million acres, destroyed almost 6,000 buildings, and killed numerous people. Not only was this a tragedy for the Australians in the path of these fires, but also for the wildlife that was caught in the blaze. An estimated 1 billion animals have perished and some species that were nearing extinction may be lost forever. This doesn’t even account for the future problems facing Australia’s wildlife when you consider how much of their natural habitat was burned to ash. However you look at it, Australians have a rough path ahead of them.

It’s often during the most troubling times that we see the best in humanity. People around the globe have banded together to help Australians in their time of need, and we here at Voluntaryism in Action knew we had to do our part in the relief effort. With the help of our followers, VIA was able to set a new record by raising over $15,000 to help in the emergency relief effort in Australia. This may not sound like much, but right now they can really use any help that they can get. We were able to send $10,000 to Givit, an organization on the ground in Australia that’s providing essential items to the victims of the fires. The remainder of the donations were given to Wires to help our four-legged friends. Wires is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization and is leading the charge in helping the impacted animals.

The fires have mostly subsided, and there has already been new growth coming up through the ashes. There’s a lot of rebuilding and hard work in Australia’s future, but they have the world behind them. Millions of dollars have poured in from individuals and charities and not a single person was extorted to raise the money. This is just another example of how people of good will are more than willing to help others without a government body forcing them to do so, even if it’s for people on the other side of the globe. Thank you to everyone that donated and all the people that helped us spread this fundraiser!

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Charity Creates Companion Robot For Sick Children

Few things can be more isolating than a prolonged illness. While bad enough for adults, this is worse for children, who can be more emotionally and psychologically sensitive than adults. Just ask Ethan Hayes: after being diagnosed with brain cancer, his four surgeries, 30 sessions of radiation radiation therapy, and seven months of chemotherapy, he’s been separated from his school friends for over a year. But Ethan now has an unexpectedly welcome companion who can tell jokes, answer questions, and play games—a robot named Zenbo.

Ethan Hayes, age 7, and his sister Chloe, age 8, are the first to test Chai Lifeline Canada's new therapeutic robot, Zenbo. Image credit: JULIANNA PERKINS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Globe and Mail reports that a team from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology had been developing an interactive companion robot for five years. They were approached by the Toronto-based charity Chai Lifeline Canada, who wanted to take the project in an unusual direction: keeping sick children company. “One of the things that we’re hoping to do with the robot is to have a child be able to connect with somebody, almost like a little buddy who can be there for him,” said Mordechai Rothman, executive director of Chai Lifeline Canada.

This pilot project is set to last six months, and to work with several families besides Ethan’s. The Zenbo robot is more versatile and interactive than an iPad or similar device, featuring motion sensors, a touchscreen, facial recognition, and more. Such interaction can provide invaluable mental and emotional support for children, even if it’s from a robot. Thanks to the charitable efforts of Chai Lifeline Canada, this powerful resource that has helped Ethan could be available to many more people in the future.

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Government Steals $600 Million From Detroit Homeowners

In a spectacular display of callous unconcern, the City of Detroit has overtaxed its homeowners by over $600 million during the past 10 years.

According to investigative reporting by The Detroit News, Wayne county tax assessors simply stopped reassessing homes as market prices fell. Anna Bolden bought a lovely brick bungalow at a tax foreclosure auction for $4,800. When her tax bill came in, she found out why the house had been foreclosed: the city was charging taxes on a house worth $57,000. “I went down [to city and county offices] to ask questions, but it’s like everybody is giving you the runaround,” she said. “It makes you feel like they are cheating you…but what can you do?”

Anna Bolden (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Although some homeowners managed to pay their inflated tax bills, at least 59,000 homes still have tax debts totaling $153 million dollars—including interest and fees on their fraudulent debts. There is a process to appeal the tax bills, but it’s a long and complicated process, and many don’t even know it exists. About 28,000 people have already lost their homes to the government over the excessive taxes. The ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund sued to stop the tax foreclosure auction in 2016, but a judge ruled that the Michigan Tax Tribunal had oversight rather than the court—essentially claiming that this injustice was not his problem.

Despite low-interest repayment programs put into place by the government, many citizens feel that more should be done. However, city officials report that they are not allowed to simply eliminate the tax debt—even when the amount people were overcharged is more than the debt the currently owe. Nor are they allowed to retroactively apply poverty tax credits that people qualified for but were not aware of in previous years.

Anna Bolden's home in Detroit. (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Of course, simply forgiving the tax debt that should never have been levied in the first place is out of the question for the government. City and county officials have argued that forgiving overtaxed residents who have not paid their taxes would be “unfair” to those who have paid. Naturally, the same officials have made no effort to address the unfairness faced by those who have lost their homes due to the overtaxing. However, the former Chair of the State Tax Commission Doug Roberts admitted that “Nobody paid as much attention as we should have. We should have [intervened] sooner.” Roberts also stated that the Detroit News’ findings are a “compelling case” and the government should “resolve the issues as equitably as possible.”

“That’s what government exists for,” Roberts said. Whether the government exists to belatedly correct a problem that it created and then ignored for years while tens of thousands of people suffered, you can judge for yourself.

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Government Welfare vs Voluntary Charity

At first, the prospect of government giving welfare to people might seem like a net good. “What heartless person could oppose these poor people receiving aid?” one might think. However, if the process of government welfare is examined, its surprisingly sinister nature becomes apparent.

In the first place, the money that the government spends is not its own—the money has been taken from other people via taxation. There are many different ideas on the morality of taxation—everything from it being a necessary part of society to it being outright theft. No matter your opinion of taxation, the fact remains that the tax money can no longer be spent as the tax payer wishes, but is now disposed of at the discretion of the government. Not only that, but since taxes are mandatory collections as part of a cold bureaucratic system, the taxpayer exercises no volition in the matter and cannot claim to have done a good thing—in fact, he cannot claim to have done anything at all. As Nobel laureate economist Friedrich A. Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom, “We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else’s expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice. The members of a society who are in all respects made to do the good thing have no title to praise.”

“Very well,” one might say. “I can’t be praised for something that I had no say in, but isn’t the welfare recipient still better off, and all society better off by extension?” Not necessarily. For when the welfare system is examined, we see that people are given money if they earn below a certain income, or work less than a certain number of hours. The intent, presumably, is to help make up for their small income—as some people say, they don’t get a “living wage.” But if we look at it at a slightly different angle, it’s plain to see that the welfare recipient is in fact being paid to earn less than a certain amount! For illustration, let’s say the cutoff for government welfare is $20,000; everyone who makes $20,000 or less receives $5,000 from the government. A person who makes $20,000 per year but could get a harder job that pays $25,000 per year will be discouraged from getting the higher paying job! Why should he work harder when he can change nothing and still get paid? Of course, not every welfare recipient thinks like this—some genuinely only want a little help getting back on their feet. But what the government welfare amounts to is a subsidy of under- and unemployment. That can’t be said to really help the welfare recipients—or anyone else in society.

Well, almost anyone else. There is one class of people who are helped by people being on welfare: politicians and government bureaucrats. The politicians, by having a false appearance of charity (how sincere is the charity when you’re giving away other people’s money?) can get more votes. The government’s “humanitarian” bureaucrats keep their jobs as long as people are on welfare—their good requires that other people be in want. Isabel Paterson put it this way in The God of the Machine: “What kind of world does the humanitarian contemplate as affording him full scope? It could only be a world filled with breadlines and hospitals, in which nobody retained the natural power of a human being to help himself or to resist having things done to him.”

Waiting on government welfare during the Great Depression.

How does this frightful picture compare with voluntary charity? For one thing, nobody is forced to give to anyone unless they want to—and nobody is forced to accept charity unless they really want and need it. Because of this, charitable people are able to choose who they give to—and in what way. It can be on a local level, either personally or in small groups, or through larger charities like VIA. This personal approach is almost always more effective than politicians dispensing welfare funds through a rigid bureaucratic structure designed to benefit whomever can lobby most effectively.

Voluntary charity also differs in that it’s aimed toward the long-term prosperity of everyone involved. The givers receive nothing in exchange for helping those less fortunate except a feeling of satisfaction—either from obedience to religious doctrines or just plain human kindness—at having helped their fellows. Like in any other voluntary transaction, the spender is anxious to get the most out of their money—in this case, they will want it to do the most good it can. And the most good it can do is to get people to a point where they no longer need charity! Therefore, the giver of voluntary charity has an incentive to maximize the well-being of the receiver of the charity—he has no reason to keep poor people poor, as does the politician.

The recipient of voluntary charity is also in a better position. Faced with people who are genuinely interested in their long-term success, the recipient is able to ask for whatever help he needs as opposed to having to meet the unyielding requirements of the government welfare system to receive a one-size-fits-all benefit. The recipient also has an additional incentive to make an effort towards financial recovery, because with a plan to follow and goals to achieve—thereby showing the giver the good their gift will do—he’s more likely to receive donations than someone simply asking for a handout.

For all the reasons above and more, we at VIA believe that voluntary charity is vastly superior to government welfare—for the giver, the recipient, and society at large. We believe it so much that we’re here doing it now, every day, with all our hearts—and we invite you to join us, voluntarily. After all, as Murray Rothbard said, “No action can be virtuous unless it is freely chosen.”

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What is Voluntaryism?

Writer Auberon Herbert coined the term “voluntaryism” in the 19th century. A classical liberal philosopher and individualist, he was an advocate for individual liberty, private property, and voluntarily-funded government. He argued that government should never initiate force and should only be a vehicle for defending individual rights. In his essay “The Principles of Voluntaryism and Free Life,” he writes that in a voluntaryist society “the state employs force only to repel force—to protect the person and the property of the individual against force and fraud; under voluntaryism the state would defend the rights of liberty, never aggress upon them.”

Voluntaryism is a philosophy based on consent consistently applied in all human interactions. Consent—uncoerced, positive agreement—is an integral part of a society based on natural rights, including freedom of association, private property, and self-defense. This sounds great to most people when they first hear it, but some struggle when applying this consent-based philosophy in all social practices—perhaps especially when it comes to taxation.

British writer and politician Auberon Hurbert

Voluntaryism rejects forced taxation as a valid mode of funding governments and their social programs because it is impossible, as things are currently organized, to obtain consent from each individual—not only in the appropriation of these funds, but also in the ways taxpayer dollars are used. Under taxation, pacifists are forced to fund war, vegans are forced to subsidize dairy farmers, pro-life advocates are forced to fund abortion providers, homeschoolers are forced to fund government schools they don’t use, and everyone is forced to pay the salaries of the unelected bureaucrats who administrate these operations. There are too many examples of conflicting interests to even list because individuals vary too much for central planning to accommodate everyone in a truly ethical way.

If at some point in the future we could individually opt-in to the government services and programs we wanted to pay for and opt-out of the ones we don’t like, and create what Herbert called a “Voluntary State,” that would be a different story! But for now, the voluntaryist philosophy states unequivocally that taxation is theft. What the money is used for, whether we like and use or benefit from the programs it funds or not, does not change this fact: that if you refuse to pay your taxes you will be robbed of property, forcibly jailed, and/or killed by the state. There is no consent, and it is not voluntary. The voluntaryist will assert that this kind of aggression and coercion against individuals is immoral. Force and aggression, according to voluntaryism, are only appropriately applied in self-defense of person and property.

VIA’s mission is to show the world that voluntary philanthropy is not only already extremely common, but much more efficient than government welfare programs (which divvy out pennies for every dollar they appropriate), as well as being the most moral way to provide charity. We reject the state’s use of coercion, force, and aggression—even when their gains are used to help the less fortunate. We are here to show the world that we can provide ethical, direct charity to individuals in need with the consent of all parties involved, through purely voluntary interactions.

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