Food donation is now as simple as a click thanks to a new innovative technology platform from Feeding America. MealConnect helps to save food that previously might have gone to waste—such as a small load of meat from a local butcher or a box of tomatoes from a farmers market. The platform then directs that rescued food immediately to Feeding America food banks’ food pantries and meal programs that serve people in need.
MealConnect allows food businesses of all sizes, from local mom-and-pop restaurants to large chain grocery retailers, to post surplus food on the MealConnect platform. An algorithm determines the best-suited local pantry or food program to quickly pick up and distribute the donation.
MealConnect is available to donors from any smartphone, tablet, or computer to make an immediate impact in the communities where they operate. MealConnect is free for all users and all donations are tax-deductible. The technology leverages the Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries and feeding programs across the country. In addition, Feeding America maintains stringent food-safety standards to ensure that all food distributed is safe for consumption.
This new technology enhancement has been made possible with a $1 million grant from General Mills. This funding also will help support efforts to scale MealConnect to communities nationwide.
Starbucks, which announced a partnership with Feeding America in 2016, will use MealConnect to help achieve its goal to rescue 100 percent of unsold food from its U.S. company-operated stores.
“In 2016, we pledged to bring the excess food in our stores, that otherwise would have been thrown away, to families in need,” said Jane Maly, Program Manager at Starbucks. “By using MealConnect, we’re able to track our donations in real time, allowing for more streamlined reporting by store and food bank.”
Feeding America is the leading food recovery partner across the food industry, currently rescuing 2.8 billion pounds of good food from going to waste and providing it to families in need. New information from ReFED, a collaboration of business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States, indicates that 72 billion pounds of good, safe food is wasted every year in the U.S. MealConnect aims to close that gap to reduce food waste and end hunger.
“Working with valued companies, including General Mills, Walmart, and Starbucks, Feeding America has been able to distribute more than four billion pounds of food annually to people facing hunger,” Feeding America CEO Diana Aviv said. “Now, MealConnect will allow us to supplement these great national efforts with donations captured from regional and local donors who may not have a consistent donation stream.”
MealConnect was initially funded and designed with support from Google.org with additional funding from the Walmart Foundation.
“Since 2005 Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have invested over $100 million in Feeding America,” Karrie Denniston said. “We made the investment in MealConnect because we saw an opportunity to strengthen capacity for the organization and its network of food banks. This platform is a prime example of how innovative technology is being used to improve food recovery and address hunger.”