Ensures unwanted food for hungry Americans


"Jesus said," Because I was hungry and dragged me. "… Loading pots was my response to this call," Belding said.

As he grew up, Belding realized that feeding the hungry was not as easy as it should be. The shelves of the closets were overflowing with some objects while other foods desperately needed.

In 2009, when he was 14 years old, the cellar received a huge donation of macaroni and cheese that was more than the community he could use and saw how difficult it was to get in touch with other charities that could get it.

Months later, he had to fly hundreds of boxes that ended as people waited on the line for food.

"I just remember crying and being so angry," said Belding, now 22 "There was nothing that really allowed us to communicate in an effective way … The Internet was right in front of us!"

Belding had overwhelmed two problems that still plague the American food system. According to the USDA, more than 40 million Americans do not normally have enough to consume, while 40% of the country's supply is lost.

In high school, he developed an idea for an online database that could solve both problems but did not have the programming skills to work. After graduating, she met with Grant Nelson, a law student writing code on his laptop.

About nine months later, during Belding's first year at the American University, MEANS, a free online platform linking businesses with extra food to charitable organizations feeding the hungry, began.
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It works largely from high schools and students, the non-profit organization has helped redistribute more than 1.8 million pounds of food since 2015.

"Very often, grocery stores and restaurants are out of the food when there is a great need in nearby communities," said Belding. "MEANS aims to facilitate food donation by throwing it into landfills … We're like a bridge that did not exist before."

CNN spoke to Belding about her work. Below is a modified version of their conversation.

CNN: What does MEANS mean and how does it work?

Maria Rose Belding: MEANS is an acronym meaning Match Equation and Need for Stability. 14 years old I had a favorite for acronyms.

It's very simple. If you want to get food from MEANS, you should register as a legitimate charity in the United States. So when a soup kitchen, a black and white shelter or a food cellar need something, they say our system. And when a grocery store, food retailer or retailer has something they want to donate, all they have to do is connect to the internet and say: "That's what I am, that's what I have and that's when I need it." Then the system automatically alerts everyone who has said, "I need things in these parameters." We are able to match the excess and need it very quickly. At this point, MEANS has approximately 3,000 partners in 48 US countries and in the District of Columbia. The Emerson Law – a "good Samaritan" law passed in 1996 – protects donors from responsibility.

We are also part of a strong partnership with Rhode Island's health department called Rhode to End Hunger, which encourages businesses to donate food to non-profit organizations. One of its sparkling stars is the Twin River Casino. They'll put hundreds of pounds of food, and someone in Providence – like McAuley House, who nourishes many people who are struggling – will claim it very quickly. The average in Rhode Island is about 10 minutes to move things.

CNN: What are some of the most unusual donations you've ever had?

Concentration: We have all these stunning stories. People think, "Oh, no one will want it" – we can prove wrong. We have 50 pounds squab – which is a fancy baby pigeon – from a five-star restaurant in Seattle. This ended up being used in pork and beans – obviously it was a big blow. We found home for 250 kilograms of rutabagas, 11,000 kilos of green beans, 42,000 pounds of milk. We will find a home for this 95% of the time. The average time it takes to request the food is half an hour. Our record is two minutes and 37 seconds.

You will think that innovation will get tough – nope! In our office, every time you see a donation live on our management panel, and then you see someone has it claimed, you are like, "worked!" When you see food moving, you know that these people are getting to eat that they might not – or perhaps get to eat better than they would have. You also get food from going to landfills. It's just ideal for everyone.

CNN: How do you balance the operation of MEANS with a full-time student?

Concentration: Everyone in our staff runs between classes, workshops and work. Our original office was split between my co-founder Grant and the underground dorm. Now we are at the American University Center for Innovation, and this semester my physics class was under the room, so I literally ran a minute there before the class began.

I really took a year off to devote myself to full-time MEANS. Now I am senior senior and I will graduate next May with my pre-medical requirements met. I certainly do not have a regular college experience. I have never been to a Greek event of life, I'm not in any club, and I know I would have a much better G.P.A. if I did not do that. But this is more important than me.

What is worth it is knowing that we are building something that matters much more than we do.

Do you want to get involved? check it The MEANS website and see how to help.

To donate to MEANS, click on the CrowdRise widget below.