In time for Earth Day on April 22, hunger relief agency Feeding America is launching MealConnect, a free technology platform simplifies food donation. The platform aims to help reduce food waste, benefit the environment and put more food on the tables of food-insecure families and individuals.
MealConnect’s technology and rollout were made possible by a $1 million grant from Minneapolis-based CPG giant General Mills, and the project was initially funded and designed with support from Google.org, with additional funding from the Walmart Foundation.
Available to donors using smartphones, tablets or computers, MealConnect enables food businesses of all sizes to post their extra food on the platform, where an algorithm determines the best-suited Feeding America pantry or food program in the area to quickly pick up and distribute the tax-deductible donation. Additionally, the agency maintains stringent food safety standards to ensure that all food distributed is safe for consumption.
Seattle-based coffee company Starbucks, which revealed a partnership with Feeding America in 2016, intends to use MealConnect to help reach its goal of rescuing 100 percent of unsold food from its U.S. company-operated stores. Grocers that will be using the program include Albertsons, Aldi, Kroger, Publix and Target, according to the MealConnect website.
“Working with valued companies, including General Mills, Walmart and Starbucks, Feeding America has been able to distribute more than 4 billion pounds of food annually to people facing hunger,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Chicago-based Feeding America. “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.”
“Since 2005, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have invested over $100 million in Feeding America,” noted Karrie Denniston, senior director-sustainability at the Bentonville, Ark.-based organization. “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.”