A New Database Built By Iowans Aims to Connect People With Food to People Who Need It

Jun 8, 2016

Maria Rose Belding and Grant Nelson were recently honored by President Obama for their work developing and implementing a database to connect hungry people with extra food. They’re calling the program the MEANS database, which is a website that allows grocery stores, restaurants and businesses to easily donate excess food, so that more goes to hungry people and less gets thrown in the dumpster. 

Belding says the idea for the database came from her work at a food pantry in Pella, Iowa.

“I would see all this expired food getting thrown away while there were literally people coming in the door who needed it,” she says. “I thought, ‘there has to be a better way.’”

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Belding and Nelson.

Nelson says the database is working to build a list of food pantries around the country, with their hours and accurate contact information.  

“One of the things that was really surprising to us was how hard it was to find food pantries online. Most of the phone number listed were wrong, if you look across the country,” he says. “This was such a no brainer to me, that I was surprised nobody had done this before.”

Sherene Harris, who works as a food and volunteer coordinator for Inspire D.C., a non-profit in Washington D.C. that runs a food pantry and does other social justice work, also joins the conversation. MEANS has helped her ensure some of the clients who use her services have access to fresh milk. 

Belding and Nelson were recently recognized by President Obama for their volunteer work with the President's Volunteer Service Award for completing more than 4,000 volunteer service hours in a lifetime.