This Organization Connects Hungry People with Food

All you need to do is text.

Sep 6, 2020

Imagine hungry people having access to fresh, healthy food in their neighborhood. This is not a vision or a dream. This is a reality in which food is made accessible by texting one simple word: Hungry. Thanks to the out-of-the-box thinking from Not Impossible Labs, the US now has a program called Hunger: Not Impossible (HNI).

The corporate foundation Not Impossible combines brainpower and technology to provide solutions to the world’s challenges. When they decided to evaluate the issue of hunger, they learned that each year 42 million Americans go hungry including 15.9 million children. On the other hand, grocery stores, restaurants, and food providers throw out 60 million tons of unused food.

HNI had a solution when they realized it was not a matter of scarcity — rather it was connectivity — and this form of connectivity is available in most people’s pocket. According to Not Impossible, nine out of ten people in need have cell-phones. In fact, 50 to 60 percent of homeless youth and veterans have a cell-phone but not the ability to eat meals regularly according to a press release from the organization.

HNI started fundraising and developing partnerships. The group reached out to restaurants and national food franchises, with Subway, Panda Express, Panera Bread, and Chipotle agreeing to come on board, as reported on FreeThink.

They strategized with organizations and charities to help locate people who suffer from food insecurity. And they reached out to technical experts at Salesforce who developed an easy-to-use text-driven platform using a chatbox. With all the elements in place, a simple text started the goodwill rolling.

When a needy person types in “Hungry” and sends the text message to HNI, they receive a message back showing the closest locations that are offering free food. They also get a text displaying different menu options.

They simply select a restaurant, choose the meal, then heads to the takeout counter where they pick up their free meal alongside paying customers. No questions are asked and dignity is preserved.

The pilot project began in Venice Beach, California, providing over 250 meals to more than 50 youth in three weeks. HNI then grew to Bentonville, Arkansas, Klamath Falls Oregon, and St. Louis, Missouri.

In the initial stages, they provided more than 12,000 meals to the needy. Due to many more hungry people as a result of COVID-19, HNI boosted their operations, feeding over 2,000 needy families a week. They are continuing to work with sponsors in order to expand to other American cities.

Providing food is the first step in transforming lives for the best. Michelle DiBattiste, operations and volunteer manager at Safe Place for Youth said in the press release, “By satisfying that initial survival instinct of finding food, Hunger: Not Impossible provides the necessary space for personal growth, self-actualization and finding stability.”

Not Impossible Labs describes this as a “hand up” as opposed to a “hand out.” They believe that if there were less hungry people in the world, the crime rate would be reduced, there would be fewer homeless people, and the cost of healthcare would diminish. And since HNI turns vision into reality, there could soon be 42 million people in the US making greater life choices.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.