Millennials Tackle Hunger With Innovation
For more than a year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been exploring the idea that data-driven innovation can be a force for good.
Not only does data drive the creation of products and services that make our lives better, but it can be used to tackle problems in our society. The Foundation is especially interested in how data can be used to help fight hunger, and will be hosting at panel on the topic at this year's SXSW festival in Austin in March.
One of the panelists is Maria Rose Belding, Executive Director of the MEANS Database, which uses data to help direct excess food to organizations that can distribute it to those in need.
The National Journal recently profiled Belding and explored the problem of food waste.
"The typical U.S. food bank is overstocked with some few foodstuffs, but its overall capacity can’t meet the community’s needs. The nation’s largest donors—restaurants and grocery stores—often can’t get a particular shipment of surplus product to a food bank that needs it, or fast enough to avoid spoilage."
Belding, 20, operates the MEANS Database with Grant Nelson, a law student at George Washington University. She told the magazine that she came up with the idea for the MEANS Database after volunteering at a food pantry and noticing that food was often being thrown out before reaching those in need. She realized that the problem could be solved using technology.
We’re using technology that should have been available to food banks before I was born,” Maria Rose said. “Almost as a rule, these are really good people working in food pantries, and decent people who want to donate their food. It’s a shame to see their hard work and all that food go to waste.”
Belding's efforts have earned her worldwide notice; she was nominated in 2015 as a L'Oreal "Women of Worth" national honoree.
The National Journal surmised that Millenials like Belding and Nelson could usher in a new way of tackling social problems, "one app at a time."