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Feeding the hungry: Digital giving options expand (and so does the need)

The UK's largest food bank network reports that last year was its busiest year ever recorded – but the number of emergency food parcels The Trussel Trust has handed out already this year suggests that record may be broken. It's a worrisome trend in the UK and, of course, elsewhere too as the holidays and cold weather approach. Are there better ways to encourage those able to help out to do so? Some interesting ideas below on how giving has gone digital. – Liz Enbysk


The time-tested food drives that have scout troops or church groups going door to door in their neighborhoods to collect canned goods to stock local food banks aren't gone. Neither are bell ringers collecting donations in front of grocery stores.

But increasingly today there's are also digital approaches to helping the hungry that may reach new or non-traditional donors. Among them:

  • Virtual food drives – Donating money to food banks and other hunger organizations online is nothing new. But today organizations or individuals can create hunger-fighting teams to raise money and donate it – or pick and choose items that food banks say are most needed and purchase them using a familiar ecommerce interface with shopping carts, etc. See how the Maryland Food Bank does it. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, CA, meanwhile, quantifies how people can help. Its virtual food drive offers an opportunity to sponsor 800 Thanksgiving meals for $100 or a truckload of nutritious food for $1,000 (with other choices as well).
  • Create your own red kettle – The Salvation Army's familiar red collection kettles are online, with a program that enables organizations or individuals to choose a cause (hunger, shelter, holiday gifts for children, etc.) and create a team to help raise money for their cause in their community. The team will have a name and a page on the site.
  • Pay It Forward – The brainchild of students at Harrison High School in New York who took part in Verizon's Innovative App Challenge, the Pay It Forward smartphone app enables users to prepay meals from restaurants both for themselves and for those less fortunate. The app is free and available on Google Play.
  • Yumchek – "Make each meal count" is the idea behind the Yumchek app developed in India by Piyush Gupta. Yumchek not only points users to relevant restaurants based on a learning algorithm, but it also enables diners to upload the receipt from their meal, which triggers a donation to Akshaya Patra and Feeding India, organizations combatting hunger.
  • BuffetGo – This app launched in Finland in 2014 and has since spread to a number of countries – including the U.S. earlier this fall. It primarily takes aim at food waste by making leftovers from restaurant buffets available at really low prices to all-comers – up to 90% off regular prices in some cases. People do have to pick up the food themselves. BuffetGo donates 20% of the profit from meals sold to the United Nations World Food Program -- so it is helping combat hunger at the same time it is making food more affordable.

More on this topic…
Why more mayors are putting food on the agenda
New research reveals disturbing trends in how teens cope with hunger

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