By Greg Argos and Kristen Johanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With the large parties and events coming to town for the Democratic National Convention next week, top hunger-fighting organizations have developed a new app for party hosts and restaurants to donate extra food.
The app, called Food Connect, matches anyone with an excess of food with the pantries and shelters in and around the Philadelphia area.
It was timed to launch with the DNC, so restaurants and large party hosts can reduce wasting meals.
Tom Mahon, with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, says anyone can download it.
“They select that they have food and that they are looking to donate it,” he said. “And as soon as they enter their location, their information is connected with a driver who has volunteered their time to drive and deliver the food to one of these food providers in the city.”
He says they plan to keep the app active past the convention.
Megha Kulshreshtha, the founder of Food Connect, fires up the app she created and helps “rescue” spare food from area businesses. She’s a real estate investor with a background in data and portfolio analytics, but she had the idea for a food rescue app as she commuted to and from work.
“I would take the subway home and I would see food being tossed out,” she recalled.
“[Then] I would also see homeless people sitting on the street and asking for food and I thought to myself, ‘How is this possible?'” she continued.
After thinking of making a simple app which business owners could use to alert hunger-relief organization of spare, leftover, and unused food, Kulshreshtha paired with the city and organization like Philabundance to launch the app in time for the DNC.
“[Throwing away food] is frustrating. Quite simply, it’s frustrating,” said Nate Baynes, the General Manager of Paesanos Restaurant and Catering Company in the heart of the Italian Market.
“To find this new app is a Godsend. They say necessity is the breeder of creation. Well, this was probably the greatest thing created for us,” he continued.
Baynes used the app the other day, quickly informing volunteer drivers he would have extra food after a catered event. A driver arrived, picked up the food at no cost, and delivered it to St. John’s Hospice. There, the food fed dozens.
“Literally we’re sitting there at the end of the event and we’re saying, ‘We have some food here. What can we do with it?’ said Baynes.
“Within an hour of realizing we had too much food it was being distributed for those that need it,” he continued.
The Food Connect app is part of Operation Food Rescue, aimed at reducing hunger in the area and transporting food that would otherwise go to waste during the DNC to pantries and shelters which feed the hungry. Philadelphia Hunger Relief Organizations like Philabundance, and Coalition Against Hunger are part of the initiative.
“This app will definitely assist in getting the food to the people that need it, (like the) hungry,” said Scott Smith, the Director of Food Acquisition for Philabundance.
“When you look at the food waste inside (Philadelphia), there is enough food for all the needy to eat, but the problem is getting it to them,” he explained.
Kulshreshtha hopes the Food Connect app solves the problem.
“Instead of reaching for the trashcan, we want donors to reach for the app. The real goal is to create this culture of giving,” she said.
To download the app, search for “Food Connect” in the iPhone or Android app stores. The app is meant to help businesses with leftover food donate it at no cost. Unfortunately, it is not available for consumer donations. There is no cost for restaurants or other business owners to donate.
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