Can we match excess food with need to better help people escape poverty? American University college student Maria Rose Belding, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Matching Excess And Needs for Stability (MEANS), discusses food waste and hunger with celebrity chef David Guas on a special episode of Add Passion and Stir made possible by generous support from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation. At age 12, Belding imagined a better system for getting excess food to emergency food providers and the people that need it. She founded her nonprofit a few years later. “Food is really the key that unlocks the door to all of these other social services that help people actually leave poverty, but until we deal with the food, we can’t deal with anything else,” she says. Long-time Share Our Strength supporter Guas has always understood the importance of donating leftover food from his restaurants to local organizations. “At Bayou Bakery, since the beginning we work closely with A-SPAN [a homeless services organization and shelter in Arlington, VA]…it’s been a great partnership,” he says. Belding wishes every chef and food organization thought about food waste the same way. “That’s money the shelter doesn’t have to spend on food… and that means they can funnel it into AA or mental health programs,” she notes. A volunteer in food pantries since age six, she recognized very young the instability of food resources at these establishments. Pantries are often in simultaneous feast or famine mode – with way too much of one item they cannot use and not enough of another item they really need. Today, MEANS addresses that problem by connecting thousands of food banks, shelters, soup kitchens and other providers with food donations in real time, and has recovered more than 1.65M pounds of food over the last five years.
Both guests understand that recovering food waste is only one piece of alleviating hunger and poverty. Host Billy Shore asks Belding how much of the hunger problem in the United States could be addressed by food waste? “Mathematically speaking, if you just look at this like a calculus problem, food waste can solve all of it. Hunger is not a calculus problem. Hunger is much more complicated than that,” says Belding. She explains the important role programs such as SNAP and WIC play in solving hunger. Guas recently took to Capitol Hill with two other celebrity chefs to champion these federal food programs. “We just banged down doors, chewed people’s ears and stressed the importance of protecting this [SNAP] program,” he relates.
Be inspired by this impactful conversation among these social activists with real-time solutions to hunger in America.
Resources and Mentions:
· No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org): Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
Root Cause Coalition: (rootcausecoalition
· Maria Rose Belding is the cofounder and executive director of Matching Excess and Need for Stability (MEANS), a database that’s helping reduce food waste and feed the hungry by connecting thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens, and other nonprofit groups with donors giving away excess food. She is currently a junior at American University and plans to go on to Medical School. Belding was one of 10 finalists in the 2015 “L’Oreal Women of Worth” contest, which honors extraordinary women making a difference in their communities. She’s also the 2015 Clinton Hunger Leadership Award winner and the author of more than a dozen nationally published articles on hunger policy.
· MEANS Database is a non-profit organization that was started with the belief it should be easy for those with excess food to share it with those in need. They’re now in 48 states and counting, helping divert food from the trash to local emergency feeding services with the ease and speed of the internet. Donors simply post what food they want to donate to instantly connect with food distributors in their area. Food banks and pantries get real-time notifications on food donations and claim what works for them.
· David Guas a is the chef/owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, a southern style eatery in Arlington, VA, and Lil’ B in Washington DC. He is a native of New Orleans and author of Grill Nation and the award-winning DamGoodSweet – Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style, which was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Dessert Cookbooks”, was a finalist for the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award in the American Category, and won the James Beard Award in the Baking and Dessert Cookbook category. In 2014, Travel Channel announced David Guas as the host of the new series American Grilled. He is also a regular on The Today Show and has appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Sweets.
· Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery is located in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Opened in 2010, Chef David Guas serves up down-home goodness daily at his neighborhood eatery. It showcases the soul of the South in sinfully delicious, Louisiana-style favorites and desserts.
· Lil’ B is a local Dupont Circle (Washington DC) coffee shop and eatery beloved by locals. This street-level hangout brings a bright, airy-yet-intimate vibe with a touch of New Orleans funk. Chef David Guas infuses his colorful southern roots in the atmosphere and the menu. The fresh baked goods, signature casual eats – fried-to-order beignets, Fri-yay Cruffin, Daily Quiche and Pies, Stuff-Your-Own Buttermilk Biscuits, Muff-a-letta, Barbecued Pork on a Bun, and other loaded Southern sandwiches – ensure something flavorful for every taste.