How a 20-Year-Old Saved 4K Pounds of Uneaten Food

Maria Rose Belding's MEANS Database connects pantries with donors
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2015 6:17 AM CST
Updated Dec 27, 2015 6:31 AM CST
How a 20-Year-Old Saved 4K Pounds of Uneaten Food
MEANS Database founder Maria Rose Belding, second from left, is seen at the L'Oreal Paris "Women of Worth" awards, Dec. 1, 2015.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

There are 48 million Americans who, at some point each year, may be unable to get enough food. Meanwhile, a third of the country's food goes to waste. This isn't as easy an issue to solve as it sounds—something Maria Rose Belding realized while volunteering at a soup pantry as a teen. At one point, the pantry received 10,000 boxes of mac 'n cheese, but couldn't find enough people in need before the stuff expired, reports Quartz. "We were throwing away all of this food just because we couldn't communicate," Belding tells the Washington Post. Now a 20-year-old American University student, Belding hopes the app and website she co-created can help: Overflowing pantries list what extra food they have available on the MEANS (Matching Excess and Need for Stability) Database, and neighboring pantries get notifications, Belding writes at the Huffington Post. Grocery stores and restaurants with food to unload can make use of the site, too.

Belding remembers watching the first donation of canned beans pop up after MEANS launched in February. "We were all anxiously sitting by our computers hitting refresh," she says—the anxiety intensified by the fact that beans are donated so regularly they aren't a hot commodity. Suddenly, "it just disappeared." Since then, the database has kept 4,000 pounds of food from the trash. While a similar service saved 50 million pounds of food in New York in 2015 by matching donations with food kitchens, MEANS allows smaller organizations to do the ground work themselves, and currently has 200 accounts across 27 states. While grants and awards keep the site running for now, Belding has plans: to track large retailers' donations from a tax-benefit perspective, something most don't currently do since those donations are made on such a local level. MEANS would charge a small fee for doing all the tracking. (On the food front, this young chef has left one of the world's best restaurants to try to save America's school lunch program.)

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