by Amanda A Swan
If you’ve ever used Uber, you know just how easy and convenient it is. There’s no waiting to hail a cab or walking from the bus stop. You simply make a few taps on your smartphone and in five minutes or so, voilà, a car appears and takes you right where you need to go.
Ride-sharing apps have revolutionized American transportation options, and made us wonder: What else can we share using our smartphones? Startups like Food Rescue US are demonstrating that smartphones can indeed help us share quite a lot. According to a recent study by the Guardian, about half of produce in the US is thrown away every year — that’s about 60 million tons of fruits and veggies. A 2016 study by the Food Waste Alliance claims that a whopping 122.3 million pounds of food was unused by restaurants over the course of the year. 93.7% of this unused food was “disposed of” and only a measly two percent of this massive amount was donated. So, what if it was just as easy to press a button and give this wasted food to the some 50 million food insecure Americans as it is to call an Uber?
Food Rescue US is a food-sharing app that prevents food waste by connecting restaurants and organizations that have too much food with hungry people. With just a few taps, you can sign up to donate or deliver food through Food Rescue US. Just like Uber, the Food Rescue US app works because it’s easy and it’s convenient. You don’t have to work around a soup kitchen’s schedule or seek out a food pantry to help others in your community, the opportunity exists right at your fingertips.
This convenience is incredibly important for the American population. Millennials work an average of 45 hours per week in the US, and even though many would like to find time to volunteer for their communities, it often just doesn’t fit into an already jam-packed agenda. Food Rescue US eliminates this problem by letting users volunteer on their own schedule. You determine your own volunteering hours straight from your smartphone. If something comes up at work, there’s no going through the hassle of calling a volunteer coordinator to cancel. Instead of an awkward and apologetic phone conversation, you can just update your availability in the Food Rescue US app. It’s the difference between having to call the cab company to cancel your taxi and just pressing “cancel ride” in the Uber app. Plus, once you cancel in the app, another volunteer in the area can then take over that duty, just like an Uber driver can pick up another customer when a ride is cancelled. It’s just flat out simpler to help the local community using Food Rescue US.
This “at-will” design for volunteering proposed by Food Rescue US mimics the ride-share giant’s “drive on your own time” employment tactics. They both, of course, offer a greater flexibility, but Food Rescue US gleans an extra benefit from this attitude by empowering younger volunteers to draw a benefit often restricted to an older population. The accommodating platform allows older and younger volunteers to work together to provide an incredible service to those in need. While citizens of both older and younger generations participate in community service activities, older volunteers tend to reap greater psychological health benefits because their work provides them with a more “purposeful social role,” whereas younger volunteers often take up community service work as a requirement related to other obligations in their lives.
For example, American parents are often required or strongly encouraged to volunteer at their children’s schools. Studies have found that this kind of obligatory volunteering lacks the benefits of more “discretionary volunteering”— or the type generally more available to the older population with more flexible schedules. Food Rescue has eliminated this problem with its at-will design that allows its users to respond to the needs of others in their community when they have the time to help, without requiring a long-term commitment or a regular schedule. This gives volunteers a unique opportunity that might not exist otherwise: Community service performed on a want to basis rather than a have to one. This opportunity gives Food Rescuers the benefit of participating in their communities in a more genuinely altruistic way, which according to recent Harvard studies, could actually help them live longer.
This flexibility also provides a unique circumstance for the huge population of older volunteers who want to help the food insecure. Even though a lot of older volunteers are retired from working traditional jobs, many of them have new constraints on their time. For example, many retired Americans dedicate time to caring for their grandchildren — a third watch their grandkids five or more days each week. Other older Americans dedicate their time to auditing courses at local universities or become highly involved with their religious community. These non-professional commitments and activities mean that Food Rescue US provides a freedom of schedule as beneficial to Boomers as it is to their younger counterparts.
Furthermore, beside being more beneficial for volunteers themselves, Food Rescue US is far more efficient than other hunger solutions. Most food banks accept expired food and specialize heavily in canned foods. This means that hungry people are being fed, but they are eating food that isn’t fresh and that is heavily processed. Food Rescue US gives the hungry access to fresher food and the same culinary preparations that would have been served to paying customers, saving room in our landfills and providing better meals for the food insecure all at once. Since restaurants produce more food waste every single day, accessing food for the hungry via Food Rescue US is sustainable indefinitely.
And just like Uber, Food Rescue US functions because it utilises our existing resources effectively. Why do people drive for Uber when they could (theoretically) make more money running their own company? It’s because they can use their own vehicle, so there’s no real start-up costs. Uber enables its drivers to use assets they already have — their cars — to reap a benefit, just like Food Rescue US does. In the case of Uber, that benefit is monetary. For Food Rescue US volunteers, the reward is a greater sense of connection and purpose within their own communities, as well as the potential of a longer, more satisfying life. In either case, all you need to get started is your smartphone, a vehicle, and your own desire.
Participating in Food Rescue US can fit in the hustle and bustle of your crazy schedule, and it will undoubtedly benefit the lives of people in your community — more than 20 million meals have been provided so far. So, how exactly does it work? You can get started now just by downloading the Food Rescue US app on your iPhone or Android or registering at foodrescue.us. There are several roles available for volunteers. If you own or manage a restaurant or grocery store, you can take on the role of food donor. Food Rescue US will help you arrange to have edible food products that would otherwise be thrown away picked up and transported to a receiving agency. You won’t have to bother with disposing of this food, and it will fill empty bellies instead of landfills.
If you have access to a car, you can become a Food Rescuer by delivering this donated food to community kitchens or food pantries. Use the app to pick delivery times that work with your schedule, and take responsibility for rescuing food from a donor in your neighborhood. This is an amazing way to make a huge difference for the food insecure in your community in as little as an hour per week. If you are already making a difference for the hungry in your community by working or volunteering with a food pantry or community kitchen, you can use Food Rescue US to indicate your organization’s food needs and have food delivered directly to you. This will provide your recipients with better, fresher, and tastier food than what you could provide without Food Rescue US.
No matter what role you are able to play in feeding hungry Americans, your participation is incredibly valuable. Food Rescue US is a platform that has the potential to transform how Americans treat food, but the program is useless without volunteers like you. Donating just a little bit of your time could make a big difference for the 12.3% of American households dealing with food insecurity. The potential to help is just a few taps away. Food Rescue US needs you to be of service to America’s hungry, and they’ve made it so simple that there is no reason not to assist those in your community who truly need access to fresh, healthy food.