Connecting Meals to Those Who Need Them Most
When it comes to food rescue, yes, “there’s an app for that.”
Connecting food donors to individuals and families experiencing hunger can be challenging. Yet, it’s proving easier thanks to the MealConnect application. MealConnect offers donors a convenient, free and safe way to reduce waste and connect surplus meals with our neighbors experiencing hunger. With MealConnect, there are easier collections, tracking and receipt recording for any type of donation, large or small.
“Whether it’s the biggest party the city has ever seen like last year’s Super Bowl, or a few great sandwiches available from a corporate cafeteria, our new technology solution is allowing us to say ‘yes’ to all the food,” said April Rog, director of food rescue at Second Harvest Heartland.
Prepared food rescue, which Rog calls “the next frontier of food rescue,” uses best-in-class food safety procedures to capture excess food from special events. Because prepared foods require additional food handling and temperature safeguards, Second Harvest Heartland works with agency partners to provide specialized training.
Loaves and Fishes, a nonprofit serving free, nutritious meals to those in need in seven Minnesota counties, has been using MealConnect to get food from donors like the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the University of Minnesota and LeAnn Chin to the smaller meal programs in its service area.
“We use the app on a daily basis to move food from our 44 donor partners to the meal programs we serve through The Hub,” said Kiley Benson, director of operations for Loaves and Fishes. “The app has already had a big impact on the way we work, and definitely makes it easier for donors.”
Benson said that although Loaves and Fishes had already been ramping up their food rescue operations, the MealConnect app has the potential to alleviate a lot of extra steps.
“It’s an effective system with the ability to really streamline our food rescue,” he said. “It’s still relatively new and evolving, but we eventually hope to train others on how to use the system.”
Aaron Hasnudeen, food distribution supervisor at Catholic Charities agrees that the system is efficient.
“MealConnect has allowed us to access great food that would otherwise have been wasted,” he said. “It has also really helped to add a greater amount of connectivity between donors and Catholic Charities.”
Thierry Ibri, chief operations and program officer for Second Harvest Heartland, calls prepared food rescue an area of focus for the future of food rescue.
“Through the app, a hotel that prepared 300 meals for a wedding where only 200 guests showed up, for example, can quickly post a picture of the food available, and then local meal program partners or food shelves can opt in to pick it up.”
Although demand for prepared food rescue is high in the hunger-relief network, a common challenge for smaller meal programs is a lack of resources to collect these valuable donations. Second Harvest Heartland is currently participating in a food bank volunteer model with a cohort of Feeding America food banks to solve this problem. Volunteers are trained in food safety, equipped with branded coolers and thermometers, and are alerted to food rescue collection/delivery opportunities via the MealConnect app. Look for more information on this exciting pilot program to come!
The MealConnect app, built by Feeding America and made possible through a grant by General Mills, is just one example of how Second Harvest Heartland and its partner agencies are implementing innovative new ways to feed a greater number of hungry families. Learn more about who and how we help.