Due to rising demand at food banks and concerns about food waste amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding America – the nation’s largest hunger-relief and food rescue organization – is expanding its MealConnect™ platform to help provide more food to neighbors in need. The innovative donation app will now allow all food businesses anywhere in the country to donate their nutritious and unsold product to local nonprofits.
Feeding America developed MealConnect in 2014 as a solution for the nation’s charitable food system, providing food banks in the Feeding America network opt-in usage of the platform to receive donations from their local food businesses in select cities.
Since then, leading investments from the General Mills Foundation, Google.org. and Walmart Foundation, with additional support from Cargill and Shipt, have helped scale MealConnect nationwide by adding new features and creating efficiencies for participating food banks and food businesses. In 2018, for example, Feeding America expanded MealConnect to help food manufacturers easily donate their rejected deliveries to food banks.
Now, the platform has scaled across the country and all 200 food banks in the Feeding America network are connected to MealConnect. Any restaurant, caterer, local grocery chain, hotel, independent food distribution company and other community food business can use the platform to donate product to the charitable food banking system – making MealConnect the only food rescue technology available nationwide.
The expansion comes at a time when the novel coronavirus has disrupted the supply chain and food business operations still facing restricted operations. With a wider scope of businesses participating in the platform, MealConnect will connect more donors with food pantries and meal programs, helping reduce food waste, benefit the environment and put food on the tables for neighbors affected by the economic downturn.
“As a network of 200 food banks, Feeding America is always looking for innovative ways to source more food for the 37 million people in America facing hunger,” said Maryann Byrdak, chief information officer at Feeding America. “And with 17 million more projected to be at risk of hunger by the end of the summer due to COVID-19, making MealConnect available in every community is critical.”
Feeding America updated the MealConnect website and revised the app to make the posting process easier for food businesses to post donations and for food banks to redirect those donations to corresponding agencies. Food businesses of all sizes can use the MealConnect app to quickly post their surplus food, confirm when it is available and coordinate with a local Feeding America food bank for pick-up. Donors can use the free app from any smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Donations made through MealConnect are tax-deductible. Food businesses interested in donating can visit https://mealconnect.org/ to donate today. The MealConnect app is also available for free download in both the iOS App and Google Play stores.
Some Feeding America food banks are also seeking additional volunteers who will partner as food rescue or home delivery drivers during the COVID-19 response. Volunteers will practice social distancing and follow other safety protocols. They will also receive food handling training and are given food thermometers, freezer blankets and other tools for rescue. People interested in volunteering can visit Feeding America’s food bank locator to find their local food bank and learn more.
Since its inception, MealConnect has facilitated the rescue of more than two billion pounds of food through pickups from food businesses and national grocery partners. Feeding America expects those pounds to rise given the expansion.
For more information on MealConnect, visit MealConnect.org.