CNN’s Hero Maria Rose Belding discovered two major food problems of the USA. As per USDA, over 40 million Americans do not get enough to eat regularly. Also, around 40% of America’s food is wasted. She devoted her entire life in feeding the hungry. Her motto was to follow Jesus Christ – “For I was hungry and you fed me”.
While growing up in Iowa town, Maria Rose collected cans/boxes of foods in the church’s pantry. Over the years her experience taught her that her task was very challenging. This was because there was abundance of one type of foods while there was requirement of others. Around 2009, Belding got donation of large amounts of macaroni and cheese to feed the community. Yet, there was such a major excess that most of the food got wasted. She just could not contact any other NGOs or charity homes to send the extra foods. Months later, Belding was forced to throw away cans and boxes that had got expired. She felt guilty since there was a long line of people waiting to get foods. At that point in time, Maria Rose was 22 years. She was angry and unhappy because she could not even use the internet to resolve the issue.
In high school, Maria Rose Belding came up with an idea for receiving and distributing foods. However, she was not a computer programmer who could materialise the dream. Soon, after her graduation, she came across Grant Nelson, a law student and a computer programmer. After 9 months Maria Rose was a freshman at the American University. Both Maria Rose Belding and Grant Nelson launched MEANS, a platform connecting charitable foods businesses. MEANS has enabled high school and college students to distribute over 1.8 million pounds of foods since 2015. MEANS is a bridge that connects people with surplus foods and the hungry needing the food. Restaurants, grocery store and other sources that decide to throw away food can use MEANS for donations. Meanwhile, needy people can get food from the same platform.
How Do MEANS Work?
The platform Matching Excess And Need for Stability or MEANS is simple and easy to use. People interested in getting foods have to register as a legal charity in the US. Whenever soup kitchen, homeless shelter, and/or food pantry requires food, the team learns from MEANS. Similarly, any caterer, grocery store and others wish to donate food, they can go online. They can add their location, food items and when to take the foods. The system informs all those who have mentioned they require foods. MEANS very rapidly matches up surplus foods with needed foods. MEANS has over 3000 partners in the USA and Columbia District. Most donors are protected from liability after passing the Emerson Act (1996). MEANS most important partnership is Rhode to End Hunger at Rhode Island Health Department. This encourages industries and business persons to donate foods.
Maria Rose Belding has mentioned people donate foods such as baby pigeon from a five star hotel in Seattle. Soon the stuff was claimed as pork and beans. Also, around 250 pounds of rutabagas, 11,000 pounds of green beans, 42,000 pounds of milk were claimed by people within half an hour. The recorded time for receiving and claiming foods is 2 minutes and 37 seconds. It works every time.
Maria Rose Belding and other staff members work only during their free time for MEANS. Everyone is still a student so they work between classes, labs and other jobs. Initially, Maria Rose and her co-founder Grant Nelson had split offices. But, now they work from American University Center.
Maria Rose Belding has led an abnormal American student life. She sacrificed joining any clubs and parties. She has had to keep good GPA studying as a pre-medical student. Over the years in college, she took a year off to devote full time for MEANS. The most important part of her life is she has no regrets in spending her entire life for working for MEANS.
Written By: Hetal Kabra