In midst of COVID-19, St. Louis-based GiftAMeal supports hungry people, restaurants

Andrew Glantz embodies the spirit of altruistic entrepreneurship. As a teen, Glantz served for 4 years as VP of the Southern California children’s charity Jr. Variety, planning fundraisers that obtained over $400,000 for various children’s causes. In college, he co-owned a nonprofit storefront promoting reuse and sustainability. And in October 2015, while still a junior…

team volunteering at operation food search (1)

Andrew Glantz embodies the spirit of altruistic entrepreneurship.

As a teen, Glantz served for 4 years as VP of the Southern California children’s charity Jr. Variety, planning fundraisers that obtained over $400,000 for various children’s causes. In college, he co-owned a nonprofit storefront promoting reuse and sustainability. And in October 2015, while still a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, Glantz launched his most ambitious endeavor yet: GiftAMeal, a mobile app that helps people discover new restaurants and provide meals to the food-insecure.

Whenever an app-user takes a picture at a partner restaurant, GiftAMeal donates a portion of the proceeds to a local food bank. 

“It’s a way to help people discover socially conscious restaurants, support their business and give back,” Glantz said.

GiftAMeal combines the charity-mindedness of companies like TOMS shoes and Warby Parker with the shareworthiness of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Here’s how it works: restaurants pay a monthly subscription fee to fund meal donations to food pantries in their own communities. In turn, consumers enact their personal values by supporting and promoting socially conscious businesses—often spending more per meal than they normally would.

“People are coming back and paying more per check due to our program,” Glantz said.  

GiftAMeal works with 200 partner restaurants in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit and has provided more than 400,000 meals so far. Now the organization is working to scale nationally, Glantz said.

Responding to Increased Hunger in the COVID-19 Era

Last week, GiftAMeal announced an ambitious plan to provide relief to struggling restaurants and the most at-risk segments of society. With the COVID-19 pandemic already  shuttering businesses and putting people out of work, food insecurity poses a more widespread threat than ever before.

 “A majority of the community members supported through GiftAMeal are children and the elderly,” Glantz said. “Schools are closing, and children relying on meals normally provided by their schools face a new challenge as social services scramble to readjust. At the same time, older community members, the most at-risk population for COVID-19, need our support now more than ever.”

GiftAMeal just launched an update to the app that will temporarily allow users to take pictures off-site to donate meals for take-out, delivery, and gift card purchases. That way, mandatory restrictions on in-person dining will not stop meals from being donated.

The organization will also provide immediate financial support of hunger relief agencies through a $5,000 matching challenge, and has even offered to self-fund the program for restaurants unable to contribute in the months of March and April, so that food donations and restaurant customers may continue to flow at a time when they are needed most.

Glantz said: “We may be a small startup with limited means, but this is a time where we can shine the brightest. It’s important to me that our donations continue to flow to hunger relief organizations, and I know that the visibility of restaurants on our platform can have a big impact on cash-flow for these local businesses. I’ve always been struck by the generosity and love of community that our partner restaurant operators have shown, and even if it’s a drop in the bucket, I am going to help however I can.”

Kristen Wild, Executive Director of Operation Food Search, GiftAMeal’s St. Louis food pantry partner, praised the organization’s rapid, community-centered response.

 “We are so very grateful to GiftAMeal for its innovative approach to providing more people with access to healthy food. Socially-conscious businesses like this are changing the way people approach giving,” Wild said.

The free GiftAMeal app is available on iPhone and Android devices. Visit giftameal.com/download.

 

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