Here's One Way to Solve the Democratic National Convention’s Food Waste Problem

Once delegates and other guests are finished shoving shrimp cocktails and hot dogs in their faces at restaurants and event spaces around town, hosts with excess food can use this app instead of tossing it.

Jul 22 2016, 3:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Jennifer Fortune Shirley

If you've witnessed the madness surrounding the Republican National Convention in Cleveland over the past few days, you have an idea as to the influx of humanity that political conventions bring to host cities. If not, imagine a swarm of tens of thousands of fervent participants in the political process showing up to your city en masse, bringing with them an entire ecosystem of vendors, protestors, media, and an increased police presence.

And while the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia isn't expected to be quite as boisterously controversial as the RNC in Cleveland, it's still going to be quite the spectacle, with up to 50,000 people in attendance.

Though they might not all agree on the specifics of politics, attendees will have one thing in common: They all have to eat. And when cooking for 50,000, there are bound to be leftovers. One strategic app, Food Connect, is hoping to make it easier for all of that extra would-be-wasted food to be donated to local food pantries and food banks.

READ MORE: You Probably Have No Idea How Much Food You Waste Each Month

Once delegates and other guests are finished shoving shrimp cocktails and hot dogs in their faces at restaurants and event spaces around town, hosts with excess food can use Food Connect to locate nearby food pantries and shelters. The app then sends a volunteer driver to pick up the food and ferry it to those in need.

"The more people coming into the city, the more chances of food going to waste," Megha Kulshreshtha, the founder of Food Connect, told MUNCHIES by e-mail.

Food Connect is a small-scale operation that has been bringing excess food to shelters and pantries in Philadelphia since 2014. Kulshreshtha says that after seeing the amount of food that went to waste after Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia last year, the city's hunger relief groups wanted to avoid a repeat scenario. The Food Connect app, which was introduced just in time for the DNC, hopes to step in and handle the excess food.

Kulshreshtha says that Food Connect is being careful to respect existing relationships between those with excess food and pantries and shelters, allowing users to choose who to donate to. They hope to expand to more cities as resources to do so become available.

Other initiatives have previously tried to help redistribute the excess food that comes with large-scale events. Massimo Bottura, the chef behind the world's best restaurant, launched an initiative in Milan last year around the Milan Expo to serve surplus food to those in need. The program continues today, and so far has saved more than 15 tons of food. Bottura is launching a similar project in Rio de Janeiro that will serve excess food from the Olympic Village to the city's hungry.

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Whether or not the app will be successful is up to the people who find themselves with surplus food. Some will have to train themselves to reach for their phones instead of trash bags.

"There seems to be a lot of interest from donors to use the app, but it's hard to say how many will donate until the events start and surplus food becomes available," Kulshreshtha told MUNCHIES. "In that sense, the ball is in the donors' court, and we hope they will choose to donate their surplus food instead of throwing it away."