How Technology May Help Eliminate Food Waste

According to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), more than 40% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten. In fact, the most recent estimates suggest that nearly 60 million tons of produce ends up in the trash each year. What’s even more distressing is that the same thing happens at food banks across the nation.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr

Maria Rose is all too familiar with this dilemma. Beginning in the 8th Grade, Maria was a regular volunteer at a local food pantry. During her time there, she noticed how large quantities of food were being tossed out every single night. “We were throwing food away because we were given donations that we couldn’t use,” Maria shared.

The paradox of having so much food available while millions of Americans were facing hunger didn’t sit well with Maria. And four years later when she graduated high school, she found a way to do something about it.

Maria Rose Belding, Facebook

Maria met Grant Nelson one week after her high school graduation. One day, when Grant was doing some coding on his laptop, Maria had a thought. Why couldn’t food banks communicate with one another using the internet? Why couldn’t technology help connect those with an excess of food to those with a need for food? And so, the MEANS Database was born.

MEANS stands for Matching Excess and Need for Stability. It’s an online database that matches programs in need of food with donors who have excess available. When a donor posts their offerings in the database, every nearby location looking for that category of food is immediately notified of the availability.

Not only does the MEANS Database allow food banks and food pantries to find other programs that are in need of their excess food, it also connects these programs with local grocery stores and restaurants that have an excess of perishable items. Because of this program, when one location has more food than they can use at that moment, they can easily find another program that is currently in need of donations. This means that less food is wasted, which also means that more food is made available to the people who need it.

Since its inception, MEANS has reached out to connect communities in 48 of the 50 United States. It won the George Washington University New Venture Competition for Best Non-Profit Social Venture. Maria was even a finalist in the L’Oreal Women of Worth philanthropic program.

When explaining what MEANS does, Maria said, “We help people who already do good work do more.” Their goal is to waste less by feeding more. If you would like to learn more about the MEANS Database or find out where to volunteer, visit their website at www.meansdatabase.com.

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