1. 50 million Americans worry about having enough to eat.
2. 40% of America's food goes in the garbage.
3. $25 billion of uneaten restaurant meals is thrown away each year.
We clearly have a problem on our hands. What can we do to address the issues of waste and justice in our food system?
There's an app for that
Earlier this summer, Foossa conducted user experience and brand communications workshops with GiveHalf, a startup working on a mobile app and website that will empower restaurant-goers to "reduce food waste while simultaneously directing resources toward programs that help ensure all Americans get the sustenance they need."
Here's how it works: You use the GiveHalf app or website to find a participating restaurant, then you pre-order a smaller portion GiveHalf meal, which gives you the choice to share part of your meal with people in need. Through GiveHalf, the restaurant donates a portion of the cost of your meal's unserved ingredients to hunger charities. And voilà, we can cut down on food waste and fight hunger at the same time.
What is means to dine generously
One of the key phrases that emerged from our time with the GiveHalf team was "dine generously," a poetic turn of phrase that functions as GiveHalf's core brand truth and call-to-action:
Dine Generously. GiveHalf.
"Dine generously" means turning the ritual of eating at a restaurant into an act of sharing with people in need. At the same time, "GiveHalf" becomes a verb that describes the action of "having a sensible portion of food for me, and giving sustenance to help those in need."
The takeaway: a powerful way to spread a new social behavior is to give it a name, preferably your brand name. Just as we now "Google" something when we look it up online or "Yelp" a new restaurant to check out reviews or write our own, hopefully one day we will "GiveHalf" our meals to tackle the problems of waste and hunger in our food system.
GoHalfsies is a similar initiative to GiveHalf. They define themselves as "a social initiative offering a choice to restaurant-goers that provides a healthier meal portion, reduces food waste, and supports the fight against hunger." GoHalfsies has also opted for the "brand name as new behavior name" strategy. Their call-to-action is "Eat Less. Give More. Go Halfsies."
PlateShare is another food sharing app that takes a slightly different approach. It allows restaurant goers to use the app to round up their restaurant bill to the nearest dollar and donate the extra amount on their bill to support meals for the hungry.
An app or a movement?
All of these initiatives are new--PlateShare just launched, and GiveHalf and GoHalfsies are both coming soon. Time will tell whether they make an impact on changing behavior and fixing the food system.
Perhaps makers of these apps can learn from the self-proclaimed Suspended Coffees movement. Suspended Coffees refers to a tradition that originated in Naples, Italy, where coffeehouse customers can prepay for extra ("suspended") coffees or food for those in need. The Suspended Coffee Facebook page, was started in March 2013, and now has over 100,000 followers. It had previously acquired 20,000 fans in under 8 hours and 60,000 in 8 weeks.
There is no "app" for Suspended Coffees, although there is a directory and map of participating coffeehouses and restaurants. The real "software" behind Suspended Coffees is social, and perhaps this explains its success as a movement.
Suspended Coffees is a simple model to replicate with compelling stories to share. The model of "buy one for me, buy one for another" makes it easy for any coffeeshop to adopt. Buying a suspended coffee has an immediate "feel-good factor" and turns my morning caffeine ritual into an act of generosity. This makes for compelling stories to share with others.
The Suspended Coffees Facebook feed proclaims that it is "more than the coffee," and also also posts heart-warming stories about "the kindness of strangers" and people going out of their way to help others. Stories move us emotionally, and they encourage us to share the message.
A second helping
So how do we solve the simultaneous problems of waste and hunger in our food system? It won't be a single app, but perhaps the answer is "all of the above:" new technologies and new behaviors spread through compelling human stories, served with a second helping of generosity.