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Could a Marketplace Solve the Hunger Epidemic?


Although work in SOMA, a hub for technology, I cannot ignore individuals who live in tents or, like the woman I saw the other day, dig in the dumpster next to our building. The wheels in my head started rolling because here we are where big names like Twitter and growing startups create apps and design software to make our lives easier. But what about the lives of 16 percent of Americans who experience hunger, and 21 percent of children?

Technology Can Facilitate the Donation of Food or Leftovers

A company called Leftover Swap, founded in 2013 by Dan Newman, created an app where people can post photos of leftovers or excess food to share. Although health inspectors might cringe at the thought, things have gone smoothly over the past year and a half. Dan believes that sharing at its core means no money being exchanged. In a video interview for CNBC, Newman shared his vision and how he came up with the idea,

“This tries to target the 40% of food we waste at least in America, the 16% of people who are hungry. All you do is take a picture of the food and it’s posted to a map. On the other end, people can browse the map and select food that they want a message the person with the food to set up the trade.”

Leftover is a broad term which can also mean excess groceries, fresh tomatoes from your garden or non-perishable items that you want to donate. Downloaded 15 000 times so far, Leftover Swap is a successful concept inspired by Dan’s personal experience. After sharing a pizza with a friend he looked at the leftovers and thought how great it would be if he could alert neighbors about the food. Today people are posting photos and accessing food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Is That Milk Still Good?

WeFood is setting a precedence for the way we think about expiry dates. The grocery store in Denmark sells past date produce at a reduced cost and targets a mainstream clientele. Expiry dates do not mean a strict cut off but are more of a way for companies and grocery stores to make a profit -- but the bottom line is a lot of food goes to waste after it is put on the curb. This type of store already exists in Europe and in a few places in the U.S. but are typically targeted to low-income residents. WeFood wants to take the stigma out of wanting to save money by being available to the general public.

The Little Pantry that Could

The Little Free Pantry in Arkansas is a collective for people to share excess food and goods to people in their community. The story, which ran by Shareable, was liked over 800 times on Facebook. With 1 in 4 residents of San francisco county facing hunger and more than 15 million children nationwide, it is no wonder that programs such as these are popping up.

Making Healthy Food Accessible

Living in the Bay Area and being surrounded by farmer’s markets makes me think, why should low income families only have access to canned goods? How could farmers work with local charities to make fresh, organic foods available to those in need? According to Robyn Purchia from the SF examiner, the city is making legislation to tackle this epidemic.

The California Legislature may also expand the tax credit farmers get for donating to food banks.”

However, it is not only the poor who struggle to find meals as some who work full-time jobs, who may at one point been labeled “middle-class,” are also finding it hard to afford healthy meals.

The aforementioned apps, programs and pantries are some innovative ways in which people are fighting hunger in this country and abroad. Many ideas come from personal experience but can impact whole communities. I love the idea of posting a picture of food for anyone to pick up as it is not only the poor who struggle to find meals, but many who were once considered middle class. Although we are far from eliminating hunger altogether, some entrepreneurs, like Dan Newman, are making it part of their business plan.

Topics: Marketplace


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