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Amp Your Good: A New Social Venture Rethinks How Food Drives Can Improve Health

Getting grocery stores into needy communities is critical to improving access to healthy foods, an established social determinant of health . But food drives are a piece of the puzzle as well. Guest blogger, Patrick O’Neill, CEO of New Jersey-based social venture, Amp Your Good, tells us how everyday consumers—with the help of technology—can make healthy foods more readily available for all, one food drive at a time.

Amp Your Good has developed a model that we call “Crowd-Feeding,” a new food drive model designed to enable groups to conduct food drives that raise fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and other healthy food.

The food drive “system” is large and under appreciated due to its fragmentation. We estimate that more than 75 Million people make at least one food donation to one of the millions of food drives sponsored each year around the US. The value of the food is a multi-billion dollar figure – possibly as high as $10 Billion.

We developed Crowd-Feeding to convert food drives into a mechanism to supply hunger organizations with the kind of food they really need to help those who are food insecure.

Nearly all of the donated food consists of non-perishable food items due the nature of the traditional food drive model. A measurable percentage of donated food is not usable (expired, damaged, or simply the wrong stuff). The food that can be used is not a good match for the people it’s designed to help. Often the usable non-perishables are highly processed foods. The population of food insecure people has high rates of diet related conditions – obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. What they need is healthy food, not the “usual” stuff. We developed Crowd-Feeding to convert food drives into a mechanism to supply hunger organizations with the kind of food they really need to help those who are food insecure.

We’ve thought a lot about how hunger organizations work and the needs of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to perform their mission. When people think about healthy places, or, rather places that are not so healthy, they think of food deserts – urban or rural. Places without supermarkets or supermarkets with very limited choices. There’s a lot of great work being done by the community development sector to create supermarkets in these places to provide better access to healthy food.   We think that hunger organizations should be healthy places, too. We think there’s an opportunity to leverage their interaction with people who are food insecure to not only supply them with healthier food, but to educate them as to why they should be consuming healthier food and to help them learn how to cook it.

Fundamental to both of those is starting off with the right kind of food. It’s terrific that so many people want to support those who are food insecure with food donations. Crowd-Feeding makes it easy for those people to donate the right kind of food.

Food Drives Re-Imagined = Crowdfeeding

Food drives reimagined with Crowd-Feeding. Photo credit: Patrick O’Neill, Amp Your Good

Crowd-Feeding has another set of benefits for hunger organizations – we cut down on the time and expense of processing traditional food drives. For example, the time it takes to inspect each item received, sorting the good from the bad and the costs of throwing away the unusable donations. We believe these time and money savings could be put toward education – to teach or reinforce for people about how to eat healthier food.

In the long run, we all want to work towards eliminating the need for food pantries and soup kitchens. Until then, however, we should all want those very same places to maximize the positive impact they can have. We should all want them to be considered “healthy places.” At Amp Your Good, we think that getting them healthy food from food drives is a good start.

In the long run, we all want to work towards eliminating the need for food pantries and soup kitchens. Until then, however, we should all want those very same places to maximize the positive impact they can have.

Our Crowd-Feeding system has been designed to make food drives a breeze. Organizing and running a drive is simple. Donating to a drive is easy and fun.   When a group wants to use our system, they provide us with some information so we can set up a web page for their drive. We collect data from the hunger organization so we know what types of food they are seeking for donation. Once we have that information, the group’s drive is set up and ready to go. The group reaches out to its community to direct them to the web page. People can pick out food items to purchase (all of the items match what the hunger organization is looking for) which they do via a standard e-commerce transaction. Once the drive is over, Amp delivers all of the food directly to the hunger organization.

So far, people and groups have been finding out about us through word of mouth. We’ve been very fortunate that people have had great experiences with Crowd-Feeding and have been sharing information about us. For people affiliated with groups that like to support hunger via food drives, our hope is that they make those groups aware of us. It doesn’t cost anything to use our Crowd-Feeding system. We’ve helped many groups raise more food and ensured that it’s all the right stuff.

Looking ahead, we have a growing number of partnerships with people and organizations aligned with our mission of providing a way to get healthy food to people in need that we hope to build upon. We’re partnering with organizations like Food Tank, Change Food and the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, who are working to change the food system to provide better access to healthy food. We’re working with companies like Imperfect Produce, so we can provide a way for people to donate fresh produce, support local farming and reduce food waste at the same time – a great example of how we enable people to Amp their Good. Long term, we hope to change the way people think about food drives, we hope Crowd-Feeding becomes the way people help those struggling with food insecurity and we hope that when you think about the kind of food can donate to help, instead of a can, you think of an apple, or an orange or a bunch of carrots. Real food that will make a real difference.

Photo credit: Patrick O’Neill, Amp Your Good

About the Author

Patrick O'Neill

Patrick O’Neill is the Founder and CEO of Amp Your Good.  After graduating from West Point and serving on active duty in the US Army, he began a private sector career focusing upon real estate, energy, technology and social enterprise.  He has founded, co-founded and led several companies and has served on the board of directors of for profit, not for profit, public and private companies.  His mission driven work began in his local church while growing up, continued at West Point, in the US Army, through his support of various non-profit organizations during his career and through youth sports coaching and mentoring.  Amp Your Good combines Pat’s passion for disruptive technology, health and for making a difference in the lives of others.  He is married and has four children.  He  enjoys skiing, science fiction, youth sports and cooking.