Your Food Porn Can Help Feed the Hungry and House the Homeless

Snapping pics of your meal just got more socially responsible.

(Photo: Feedie/Vimeo)

Patricia Dao is a regular contributor to TakePart. She is a Los Angeles based serial tech entrepreneur and Managing Director of the non-profit Girls in Tech-LA.

Posting our latest meal, checking in at our favorite restaurant, or grabbing deals on Groupon are the norm in our digital world. What if social media and technology could be mobilized not just for comments and likes but also to mobilize people to aid the hungry and homeless in the world? Check out these mobile services that are driving a positive change in the lives of the less fortunate.

Feedie: 
You can't go a day scrolling through your Instagram feed without a friend posting a daily dose of food porn. According to Feedie, a whopping 65 percent of Americans eat out once a week, and millions take pictures of their food to share on social networks. On Instagram alone, more than 20 million photos are hashtagged #foodporn. So how do we harness this phenomenon to have a positive effect in our world? A mobile app called Feedie encourages foodies to help feed the hungry by doing what they do best: snapping photos of their food. Through the app, every photo of a meal taken at a participating restaurant and shared through the person's social network will automatically turn into 25 cents donated to the nonprofit and parent company of the app, The Lunchbox Fund.

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing daily meals to impoverished students in rural areas of South Africa, where 12 million children live below the poverty line. Topaz Page-Green, the founder of Feedie and The Lunchbox Fund, explains that many of the children may go without food for an entire day. "There were children sitting away from the other kids at break under some trees," she says, "and when I asked why children sat separately from the others during break, the teacher mentioned they had nothing to eat and didn't want to see the kids who had food eating."

Twenty-five cents will go a long way toward helping pay for one meal per child. Foodies have shared more than 12 million meals through the app. With restaurants in major cities on board, more signing up daily, and celebrity spokesperson Mario Batali advocating for the cause, shared foodie photos and meals given to schoolchildren in need are sure to increase.

FoodCircles:
We all love a good deal, especially when it comes to food at our favorite restaurants. In a few clicks, the mobile app FoodCircles makes it possible to grab those deals—all while helping feed hungry children both locally and in West Africa. You can think of it as Groupon with a charity-donation twist. From pepperoni pizza to tiramisu, FoodCircles asks for a minimum donation of $1 to print out your restaurant voucher.

Every dollar donated through the app pays for one meal per local child or for an entire day of food per child if you're donating for a kid who's not in the U.S. If you're feeling generous and want to feed more kids, the app lets you pick how much more you'd like to donate when purchasing your deal. One hundred percent of donations are sent to registered nonprofit distributors, such as Kids Food Basket, Feeding America WM, and World Vision. The majority of participating restaurants are near the company's home base in Michigan, but FoodCircles is reaching out to restaurants across the country to encourage them to jump onto the giving wagon.

Link-SF:
If you have your own kitchen, Link-SF isn't for you. But every night in America more than 600,000 people experience homelessness—30 percent of them are families. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, California had the country's largest homeless population: 137,000. That's why three San Francisco–based organizations, the nonprofit St. Anthony Foundation, Zendesk, and Gray Area Foundation, teamed up to create a location-based mobile site filled with information about the closest facilities and operating hours for shelter, food, medical, hygiene, and technology services.

The Link-SF mobile site doesn't have the bells and whistles of most downloadable mobile apps, but the simplicity and accessibility of mobile-optimized sites are why this service is a great step forward in communicating with those experiencing homelessness. Because California is one of the states that offers free Web-enabled phones to low-income and homeless individuals, it doesn't cost a dime to access it. 

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