How Skipping the Mayo on Your Next Sandwich Can Help Millions of Hungry Americans

Every time you cut calories from your meal, this free app donates to a local food bank.

(Photo: Lori Andrews/Getty Images)
Kristina Bravo is a Los Angeles–based writer. She is an Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Some count calories and ask themselves what a caveman would eat, while others struggle to get any food at all. Both sets embody two major health problems that lately have been weighing America down: obesity and hunger. Now there’s an app offering a solution that hits two birds with one stone—by donating the calories one person skips to another in need.

FoodTweeks, a free ad-supported app, works simply enough. Say, against your better judgment, you’re ordering a chicken Parmesan sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory. Type that into the app and it will suggest ways to shave off some calories, such as asking for grilled chicken instead of fried. FoodTweeks also recommends lighter menu options (in this case, a plate of tomato basil pasta). Pick an action and the app will tell you how many calories you’ll save. For every 600 calories saved, it donates one meal to a local food bank. Want to double your contribution? Just share on social media.

Creator Jay Walker, who helps organize health and medicine conferences for TED, thinks the chance to help a hungry person makes the app more effective and rewarding than most weight-loss approaches.

“FoodTweeks is not about telling you what to eat,” he said in a press release. “It’s about sensibly, almost invisibly, removing unwanted calories from the foods you like…while doing good for people in your community at the same time.”

The app’s calorie-cutting tips and food list, which besides restaurant and fast-food menu items includes homemade meals as well, are crowdsourced. Since launching the app in May, FoodTweeks has donated more than 10,000 meals through its food bank network.

According to Feeding America, many households don’t just go to food banks for emergencies anymore. More than half of the people the organization serves, including those already receiving SNAP benefits, visit its pantries monthly for at least six consecutive months. Surely it’s going to take more than any app to solve such a major crisis. But becoming a small part of a solution while making healthier food choices—with a few clicks on our phones—seems like a no-brainer.

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