Is Food Waste Largely A Communications Problem?

means database

means database

Yep, we all know the figures: around 40% of our food goes to waste while 45 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. With our current communications technology, it seems like we could match up some of that food with some of those hungry people, and put a serious dent in both… right?

We’ve certainly seen efforts to put tech to use in the fights against both food waste and hunger, but there’s room for more innovation here. A new player on the scene, the MEANS database, aims to bridge to communications gap between those that are getting rid of edible food, and those that serve populations that would be happy to eat it.

Conceived by American University sophomore Maria Rose Belding when she was volunteering for a food pantry in her Iowa home town, MEANS (which stands for “Matches Excess and Need for Stability”), aims to bridge that gap. And while you’d think that this would be a fairly simple problem to solve, and that someone would’ve created such a tool already, Belding found that the food pantry sector was woefully behind the times when it came to communications technology: “…she soon realized the emergent technologies that already had upended so many industries — tools to discern opportunity in unlikely places — had not yet found their way to the nation’s not-for-profit food pantries. Around half of the phone numbers listed under food pantries, she said, didn’t even work.” After roping a friend’s brother in to provide programming support, Belding spent over a year building MEANS… while also starting college.

MEANS now supports the transfer of edible food in 24 states, and 20-year-old Belding has been recognized by L’Oréal Paris and Arianna Huffington for her vision and work. With just over half of US states to get involved, there’s still lots to do, though…

Know of other efforts to bring internet technology to bear on the problem of food waste? Tell us about it in the comments…

Photo credit: Screen capture of MEANS database home page

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