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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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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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