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A picture is worth thousands of meals as food technology startup helps address food insecurity

GiftAMeal, a St. Louis based food technology startup, is teaming up with the City Foundry’s food hall to give back food to people in need with a mobile app.
GiftAMeal, a St. Louis-based food technology startup, is teaming up with the City Foundry’s food hall to give back food to people in need with a mobile app.

A St. Louis-based food technology startup is working to address hunger in the St. Louis region with its mobile app—GiftAMeal. Patrons download the free app, snap a photo of their meal and upload it. For each photo, GiftAMeal donates money to Operation Food Search.

Founder and CEO Andrew Glantz said the program is a way for restaurants and patrons to give back, but restaurants have also benefited from it.

“Our partner restaurants have actually seen that the guests that are using GiftAMeal on average are returning about 39% more frequently,” Glantz said. “And they’re tipping 32% more than standard customers.”

So far, GiftAMeal has provided roughly 860,000 meals to people in need since 2015.

The City Foundry’s food hall is the latest group of eateries to join the effort this month. Brian Schmitz, co-owner of Intergalactic Burgers, Subdivision Sandwich Co. and Good Day at the City Foundry, said the idea of giving back to the community with a food selfie was appealing.

“The format of doing good work by leveraging something that is already existing and beneficial and synergistic, it’s sharing goodwill on a number of levels,” Schmitz said. “So all of that sort of alignment really made sense.”

He partnered with GiftAMeal in 2020 when many restaurants were limited to carry-out options. Schmitz said his customers continued to give back anyway by uploading photos of their meals from home.

“The goodwill to show support for the restaurants that they were patronizing and taking care of themselves and you know small acts of kindness,” Schmitz said.

Four of the City Foundry’s independent kitchens, including two of Schmitz’s eateries and Sureste Mexican and Patty’s Cheesecakes, had already joined the program. The collaboration yielded positive results, said Matthew Sorth, City Foundry food hall general manager. He said getting the rest of the eateries to join was a no-brainer.

“People are already taking photos of the beautiful dishes from our 16 restaurants,” Sorth said. “And this is a way to have an immediate impact in our community. So it was a very natural fit. We have already built a diverse community of talented chefs at our food hall. So expanding this network to help out food directly in the hands of those who need it is a natural step.”

While the concept won’t completely end food hunger, Sorth said this is a step in the right direction.

“It is what we can do in our business to be able to fight food insecurity,” Sorth said. “I think that this one piece with GiftAMeal and some other organizations as well does play a large part.”

This partnership is expected to provide roughly 10,000 meals for people in need.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.